Norwegian to operate three US routes from Gatwick

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Norwegian is to expand its new long-haul operation with the launch of three transatlantic routes from London Gatwick next summer.

The Oslo-based low-cost carrier will fly to Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and New York John F Kennedy from the UK airport. Twice-weekly services to the Californian and Floridian cities will start on 2 and 4 July, respectively. In between, 3 July will bring launch of the thrice-weekly New York service. All three operations will be year-round.

Norwegian already flies an extensive short-haul schedule from the London airport, having in March establish a base there, from which it now uses Boeing 737s to operate some 320 weekly flights across 25 routes. Five new European destinations are to join the network across the spring and summer of 2014, too: Budpaest will be served thrice-weekly from 30 March; Corfu, Larnaca and Sicily once a week from 5 April; and Corfu once a week from 19 July. Norwegian is to increase the number of aircraft it has stationed at Gatwick from four to six.

The carrier has operated long-haul services from Scandinavia since May, when it inaugurated an Oslo-New York service. Bangkok joined the network in June, and Fort Lauderdale will do so in November. Before its starts flying long-haul from Gatwick, it will launch Los Angeles flights from Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm; Oakland flights from Oslo and Stockholm; and Orlando flights from the Norwegian capital. Long-haul crews are based outside the high-cost Scandinavia region.

Airline chief Bjørn Kjos says there has been a "tremendous" response on the US routes thus far.

Norwegian uses 787s for long-haul services, though late arrival of its first and subsequent in-service problems with the fleet have required it to rely on leased A340s to conduct some operations.

However, Kjos remains convinced that the Boeing 787 is, like the Airbus A350, the "perfect aircraft" for low-cost long-haul flying, and "the passenger knows it", he adds.

He cites range, fuel efficiency ("another world") and the high utilisation made possible by eased maintenance burden as major contributors to the 787's suitability. The next-best type would cost an additional £5 million ($8 million) per aircraft per annum, he estimates.

Seeking to distinguish Norwegian from failed low-cost long-haul operators of the past, Kjos argues that the infrastructure required for long-haul flights is such that "you can't do it without a profitable, large short-haul network".