Norwegian plans to begin service to Rio de Janeiro in 2019, as it eyes growth opportunities in South America.

The low-cost carrier will connect London Gatwick with Rio de Janeiro Galeao with a Boeing 787 from the spring of 2019, Norwegian chief executive Bjorn Kjos tells FlightGlobal today. Airline executives have previously said that Norwegian intends to serve Brazil.

The new London-Rio route would compete with British Airways' existing service between London Heathrow and Rio, FlightGlobal schedules data shows.

Norwegian entered the South American market earlier this year, beginning flights between London Gatwick and Buenos Aires with a 787 in February. The move was a precursor to domestic flights in Argentina that are set to launch next month.

The airline's Norwegian Air Argentina subsidiary will begin service to Bariloche, Cordoba, Iguazu, Mendoza, Neuquen and Salta with Boeing 737-800s on 16 October.

Norwegian sees further growth in and to South America. The carrier is looking at basing some of its Airbus A321LRs, which begin arriving in late 2019, in Argentina to serve international routes within the continent, says Kjos.

The carrier is also looking at connecting some of its long-haul bases in Southern Europe, for example Barcelona and Madrid, to South America, says Kjos, adding that there is a lot of "flow" between these markets.

"It's extremely expensive to fly on some of the routes there," he says. "They deserve to pay lower fares."

Aerolineas Argentinas, Air Europa and Iberia fly the Madrid-Buenos Aires route; while Iberia alone serves both the Madrid-Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona-Buenos Aires routes, schedules show.

The growth to South America comes as Norwegian, on the whole, plans to slow its long-haul expansion, says Kjos. The carrier will focus on adding frequencies on existing routes, many of which are sub-daily, versus entering new markets in 2019.

Norwegian will add Hamilton and Montreal in Canada, and Tampa, Florida, to its transatlantic network this fall.

Source: Cirium Dashboard