Norwegian's eye-catching move to launch long-haul, low-cost services on the Singapore-London Gatwick route injects some fresh competition into a sector flown only by mainline carriers.

FlightGlobal schedules data show the sector is dominated by British Airways and Singapore Airlines – which fly the Singapore-London Heathrow route. Garuda Indonesia also operates a direct service on Singapore-London, but the return service flies through its Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta hub. That service initially operated to Gatwick, but later switched to Heathrow, leaving no direct Singapore-Gatwick service.

On direct round-trip services, Singapore Airlines leads the way. FlightMaps Analytics shows that in April 2017 it will operate 42,000 seats with four-times-daily services, while British Airways will fly 22,000 seats with twice-daily services. Qantas used to operate a Singapore-London route, but this was axed as part of its tie up with Emirates and shifting of European services through Dubai.

FlightMaps Analytics shows that the pair operate a mix of Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft on the route.

Changi, clearly pleased to secure a long-haul service, estimates that Norwegian will add about 11% of capacity to the route, and that London is Changi's 14th busiest destination. The carrier will use fuel-efficient, high-density Boeing 787-9 aircraft with 344 seats in a mixed economy/premium configuration.

SIA and BA charge a premium for the privilege of flying direct. A round trip economy class ticket on either carrier costs more than S$1,000 ($717) for Singapore residents. One-stop services through the Middle East or other European hubs cost about $600.

Norwegian is entering new territory: Singapore travellers can already buy the London Gatwick service at prices below S$500 – although this covers little more than a basic ticket.

Direct Singapore London

FlightGlobal Schedules

SIA, of course, competes on much more than price. It has a strong edge in terms of its Asia-Pacific network through its own aircraft or Silkair, but price-conscious origin and destination traffic will find Norwegian's offer compelling.

Price-conscious travellers in the broader Southeast Asian region could even see a price advantage of flying into Changi and conducting a self-transfer to Norwegian for an onward flight. This could see Norwegian affect other regional carriers with major London operations, such as Malaysia Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

Norwegian can also offer some connectivity beyond London Gatwick. FlightGlobal schedules data on Norwegian's bank structure at Gatwick shows that passengers arriving from Singapore will be able to connect to Norwegian's destinations in both Northern Europe and Spain. Similarly, Norwegian will be able to gather feed from Northern Europe, Southern Europe, and even North America for the service to Singapore.

Norwegian's website is already offering Singapore travellers these onward connections.

For SIA and BA, the new competitor will doubtless place some fresh pressure on the route's yields, particularly for the origin and destination market. A more significant question may be whether either carrier will seek to launch a competitive offering from Gatwick.

SIA could consider deploying its long-haul, low-cost carrier Scoot on a London route. Scoot already plans to start a four-times-weekly service to Athens on 20 June, using 787-8s with crew rest areas. It has been coy about its second European destination, but Norwegian's market entry will definitely have drawn its attention.

Likewise BA has already matched some of Norwegian's transatlantic operations out of Gatwick – starting rival flights out of the London airport to New York JFK, Oakland and, from later this summer, Fort Lauderdale.

For Norwegian the route notably marks the expansion of its long-haul model to Asia from London Gatwick for the first time – and only its second Asian destination. The airline has thus far focused most of its long-haul operations on transatlantic destinations, with the exception of services to Bangkok from the Scandinavian cities of Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm.

It also marks the first low-cost carrier service linking London with Asia since AirAsia X pulled its Kuala Lumpur-London Gatwick service in early 2012. The latter, following recent restructuring, has a return to London on its radar when it begins taking delivery of A330-900neos and A350-900s next year.

Source: Cirium Dashboard