Norwegian 2.0 in total except name or a real new attempt at cheap transatlantic flights? That was the question on everyone’s lips last year when the surprising announcement of a new low-cost carrier Norse Atlantic Airways hit the headlines.
Despite CEO Bjørn Tore Larsen insisting that the airline is “nothing to do with” Norwegian, the question is still unanswered. From the planned route network to the plane, the similarities are striking. In a particularly different strategy than Norwegian, however, Norse is busy working for labor market associations on both sides of the Atlantic.
Low-cost pioneers Norwegian left the market for long-haul flights last year along with a restructuring of the company, new financing and total rethinking of its strategy. The Norwegian, who has emerged from a turbulent year, now focuses mostly on routes in Norway, between the Scandinavian countries and a handful of European leisure routes.
Here is what we know so far about Nordic.
Similar route network to Norwegian Air
First and foremost, the airline plans to fill in the gaps that Norwegian has left on many long-haul routes between the United States and Europe. The Norse website promises “destinations such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Paris and Oslo”, none of which will come as a surprise to Norwegian’s former long-distance customers.
Norse will even run the routes using the same leased aircraft, an initial fleet of nine Boeing 787 Dreamliners previously flown by Norwegian. When flown by Norwegian, the aircraft had 32 premium economy seats in a 2-3-2 configuration and 259 economy seats in a 3-3-3 configuration.
The new airline promises “high cabin utilization” to keep costs down. For this strategy to work, Norse will need to partner with feeder carriers on both sides of the Atlantic. Could one of these be Norwegian? Announcements should be forthcoming in the coming months.
Another approach in some ways
But not everything will be the same. Competing airlines and unions cried badly through Norwegian’s time in the United States, claiming that the airline set up an international subsidiary based in Ireland to simply avoid Norway’s strict labor laws.
“Norse will work differently from labor market relations from the start,” Larsen said in a joint press release with the Association of Flight Attendants (GRANDFATHER).
Norse started by signing a “recognition agreement” with the International Transport Federation before turning to the details of the United States
Norse then announced one agreement before rental for up to 700 U.S.-based flight job assignments with AFA, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines.
Norse promises its new hires “industry-leading starting salary and job protection” and benefits including health care and a 401k. Larsen said he was “excited” about the deal, which “makes it clear from the start that our airline puts people first.”
AFA President Sara Nelson said, “this is what respect for workers and our unions looks like,” before suggesting that many former US-based Norwegian cabin crew would take jobs with Norse.
OSM Aviation is currently announcing to cabin crew, pilots and other professional and technical positions on behalf of Norse. If OSM sounds familiar, it is because the company was partly owned by Norwegians and supplied the cabin crew to the airline for many years.
When will Norse Atlantic Airways start flying?
Although Norse has entered into collective agreements, raised capital, been public and leased aircraft, the company has several obstacles to clear before it starts flying. The most important step is to secure operator licenses in the US, UK and EU.
The issuance of a U.S. license is by no means a security, some of which in Washington has previously stated against the idea. But getting the unions on board early is undoubtedly a positive step.
Should all go well, the carrier aims to be in the air by December 2021. Whether it will succeed, well, that’s someone’s guess. The demand is definitely there, or at least it was before the pandemic. In 2019, Norwegian transported more than two million people from New York to Europe.
See this space as the next chapter in cheap transatlantic flights begins.