Norwegian plots base expansion, eyes partnerships

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Norwegian Air Shuttle will launch more bases across Europe and further afield as its fleet and network expands. It is also interested in possible tie-ups with other low-cost airlines operating in other markets.

The Oslo-based low-cost airline currently has 10 bases in Europe and will open its latest addition - at London Gatwick - in April. Its current bases include four in Norway, one each in Sweden, Denmark and Finland, and three in Spain. Meanwhile Norwegian launches the next phase of its growth strategy in May with the introduction of long-haul low-cost services from a new base in Bangkok to Oslo as well as between Oslo and New York.

Speaking in London at the formal launch of the Gatwick operation, chief executive Bjorn Kjos says more bases were in the pipeline. "We'll definitely have more European bases," he says, adding that these could be both in the UK and in mainland Europe.

"And you'll see it in a wider perspective because in the future we might be flying from different positions in Asia to Europe, and where will the meeting points be?" adds Kjos. "On the other hand there might be [long-haul to Europe] bases in the USA."

The airline, which carried 17.7 million passengers last year, operates 73 Boeing 737s, the bulk of which (63) are 737-800s with the remaining 10 being 737-300s. It has a further 65 737-800s on order and along with 100 737 Max and 100 Airbus A320neos. Eight 787s are on order for its new long-haul business, with deliveries due to start this year.

Kjos says that some of the single-aisles on order will replace its older 737s - it has a policy of rolling the fleet over when they reach seven years of age - and the remainder for expansion.

Norwegian does not have any close relationships with other airlines, but Kjos hints that this may be changing: "We could tie up with an airline like JetBlue or AirAsia," he says, although he declines to comment specifically about whether any discussions had begun: "If I had had talks, I couldn't say it."