Low-cost airline Norwegian has discontinued its long haul flight network and will shift its focus to short haul flights only.
Norwegian announced yesterday it would no longer operate its intercontinental routes in order to survive.
The struggling airline, which is already in bankruptcy protection proceedings, will solely focus on its domestic Norwegian network as well as on short-haul flights within Europe.
According to Norwegian CEO Jacob Schram the airline is trying to “rebuild a strong, profitable Norwegian so that we can safeguard as many jobs as possible”.
Schram added that “we do not expect customer demand in the long-haul sector to recover in the near future”, saying it is unlikely that Norwegian will ever resume long haul flights.
Low-cost, long haul
Norwegian (full name: Norwegian Air Shuttle) was one of the pioneers when it came to low-cost long haul flights, offering flights from multiple European airports to destinations across North America and Asia.
The airline had long haul flight bases at Oslo Gardermoen, Stockholm Arlanda and London Gatwick. It mainly catered to leisure travellers wanting to fly on the cheap to destinations such as Singapore, Bangkok and New York.
On these long haul routes, Norwegian used Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes, which now became redundant. According to Norwegian, also its narrow-body fleet will be shrunk to 50 planes.
The news that Norwegian will discontinue its long haul routes doesn’t come exactly as a surprise given that the airline was already struggling financially before the corona virus pandemic hit.
With especially intercontinental traffic being hit hard, the decision to solely focus on short-haul flights within Europe is entirely logical.
That said, it is too early to say whether or not Norwegian will survive in the long run given that there are still many uncertainties. It remains to be seen whether or not Norwegian can be restructured into a financially stable airline and to which extent international aviation will rebound after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although Norwegian will retreat from long haul aviation, it will leave a lasting legacy. With their low fares, Norwegian and other low-cost carriers forced legacy airlines such as British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France to join a race to the bottom.
This could be seen first of all in flight prices, as the traditional airlines were forced to compete in price and thus to lower their fares in order to defend their market share.
However, perhaps the biggest legacy can be seen in the actual product. Norwegian and other low-cost airlines made the unbundling of fares the dominant practice across the market.
Norwegian introduced a simple low-cost model in which the customer had to pay for any additional services, whether it is seat selection, a checked bag or in-flight meals and drinks.
Although legacy carriers once had all of these benefits included in the ticket price, they have since taken over the practice as well as most European airlines no longer offer complimentary seat assignment or a checked bag on their lowest fares.
Even though Norwegian might have disappeared as a long haul competitor, it is unlikely that these airlines will go back to their old model of all-inclusive fares.
Another aspect in which Norwegian has revolutionised long haul aviation is by working solely on a one-way basis, in which a return ticket is always the equation of two one-way journeys. Legacy carriers used to charge prohibitive amounts for one-way flights and only offered lower fares on their return tickets, a practice which they have mostly stepped away from as well.
Norwegian is discontinuing its long haul flights, which is sad news most of all for the many thousands who loss their job as a consequence.
The low-cost airline left a lasting legacy in intercontinental aviation as many of the practices it introduced were taken over by its competitors.
As for the consequences felt by the customers, this turned pretty much out to be a double-edged sword. Thanks to the competition and the unbundling of fares, long haul flights for sure became much more affordable to the public.
At the other hand, there are many customers who are not too fond of having to pay extra for bags and seats, a practice which has now been taken over by many full-service airlines as well.
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