New 'Low-Cost' Airline to Launch Transatlantic Service

Norwegian Air Shuttle will begin transatlantic service from the U.S. to Europe, with nonstop flights from New York to Stockholm starting on September 9, and nonstops from Ft. Lauderdale starting in November. The new airline will provide connecting fares to dozens of cities in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe. Norwegian, which is de-emphasizing the "air shuttle" part of the corporate name, will fly Boeing 787 Dreamliners with both regular economy and premium economy.

As far as I can tell, the airline has not announced any promotional fares. Regular fares vary from day to day, and, at least for now, fares on some of those early flights are quite high. Although Norwegian positions itself as a low-fare airline, its fares generally match, rather than undercut, competitive flights on SAS and other airlines. The lowest fares require extra fees for just about anything—Norwegian offers various fee-combination packages that it markets as good deals.

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Norwegian's economy cabin will have the unfortunate very tight nine-across 3-3-3 seating. However, neither Norwegian nor any third-party airline seating website posts seat-pitch numbers. The premium-economy product, arranged 2-3-2, looks competitive with other airlines: a good product at roughly double the lowest economy rates.

Unless the seat pitch is extra generous, with no fare advantage and with what seems like a poor economy product, Norwegian brings little to excite the marketplace. Yes, some of the technical features of the 787 are nice—especially the improved cabin pressure and humidity—but no airline can offer a good economy product in 787s with nine-across seating.

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