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Norwegian adds Rome to transatlantic gateways

Norwegian will in November begin new US services from Rome Fiumicino, the latest European gateway in its rapidly expanding transatlantic network.

The Oslo-based low-cost carrier has disclosed that it will link the Italian capital with Newark four times a week from 9 November, Los Angeles twice weekly from 11 November, and Oakland twice weekly from 6 February 2018. The flights will be operated with Boeing 787s.

Norwegian plans to increase the frequency of the Newark and Los Angeles services – to six times a week and thrice weekly, respectively – in February 2018, it adds.

"Rome is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, and a favourite among Americans, so it was an obvious choice for us as we continue to expand our transatlantic presence," says Norwegian's commercial chief Thomas Ramdahl.

The airline has long planned to add transatlantic services from Rome, he tells FlightGlobal. The move was not driven by Alitalia's financial woes and extraordinary administration filing earlier in May, he stresses.

"It's always been on the table," says Ramdahl, adding that Norwegian had to wait until it had the aircraft to launch the new services from Rome.

The carrier will base two 787-9s there, one from November and one from February 2018, he says.

Norwegian opened a short-haul base at Rome Fiumicino with two Boeing 737s in 2016. Executives said at the time that they hoped to add long-haul flights in the future.

In a busy year of transatlantic expansion, Norwegian is poised to add flights from Barcelona to Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Newark and Oakland in the week of 5 June.

From 15 June, Norwegian will serve Hartford, Newburgh Stewart and Providence with 737 Max 8s from six cities across Ireland, Sweden and the UK. Denver and Seattle flights from London Gatwick will be started in September.

The airline will operate 56 transatlantic routes, including the new services from Rome, by year-end – two-thirds more than it flew in 2016, FlightGlobal schedules show.

In addition to the new Rome services, Norwegian will in November start new seasonal flights from Fort Lauderdale and Providence to Guadeloupe and Martinique in the French Caribbean. It will operate twice-weekly flights between Fort Lauderdale and Martinique, and between Providence and both Guadeloupe and Martinique, and thrice-weekly flights between Fort Lauderdale and Guadeloupe with 737-800s.

The new routes, as well as additional seasonal services to the islands from New York JFK, replace the flights Norwegian offered to the French Caribbean islands from Baltimore/Washington and Boston last winter.

Providence serves a similar catchment area and has lower costs than Boston, says Ramdahl. It is also one of the main bases for the carrier's new transatlantic 737 Max services.

"We were struggling with the Baltimore service since we started," he says. "We didn't get the loads that we wanted."

Norwegian will use the aircraft freed up from the Baltimore flights to increase services to JFK and operate the new Fort Lauderdale flights, says Ramdahl.

Baltimore/Washington International airport says it is continuing to work with Norwegian on other international air service opportunities.

Norwegian will compete with Alitalia on Rome-Los Angeles and United Airlines on Rome-Newark, FlightGlobal schedules show. Alitalia, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines fly Rome-JFK.

No airlines fly between Rome and either Oakland or nearby San Francisco, the schedules show.

Similarly, no carriers fly from Guadeloupe or Martinique to Fort Lauderdale or Providence. However, Air France and American serve the islands from Miami.

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