Prospect of more low cost, no frills, flights from UK to USA by airlines like Norwegian
We face the prospect of flying becoming even cheaper, encouraging yet more “hyper-mobility” and “binge flying”. This is not just from the UK government hoping to add another runway at Heathrow, so hugely increasing UK airport capacity (and in doing so, threatening UK carbon targets) but from more no-frills, budget long haul trips. Norwegian, the Scandinavian airline that Gatwick has high hopes of, is offering one-way flights from Edinburgh to New York starting at £56. Some analysts believe 2017 could turn out to be the breakthrough year for low-cost, long-haul with a boom in the number of routes being offered, mainly on the North Atlantic network, but with other flights added into Asia and possibility South America. Back in 1977 Freddie Laker tried cheap transatlantic flights but by 1982 “Skytrain” had gone bust; priced out by airlines that dropped their fares to put Laker out of business. The low cost model might have more chance now, with lighter planes burning less fuel per unit distance, eg. Boeing 787 Dreamliner and 737 Max, and the A350 XWB and A321Neo from Airbus, and engine makers using lighter alloys. Efforts are being made to cut weight, eg. taking out screens on seats. The lighter planes can also fly further on the same amount of fuel.
Pared-back planes offer true budget flying
By Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent (Times)
December 31 2016
Norwegian, the Scandinavian carrier, has caused a storm in the industry by offering one-way flights from Edinburgh to New York starting at £56
It has been a feature of short-haul flights around Europe for a generation. Millions of travellers each year ditch the free in-flight meals, glasses of wine and weighty check-in luggage in favour of roughing it on low-cost airlines.
Now, the trend for stripped-down, budget flight has reached the long-haul travel market.
This week, Norwegian, the Scandinavian carrier, made waves by boasting of one-way flights from Edinburgh to New York starting at £56. Last night, analysts said 2017 could turn out to be the breakthrough year for low-cost, long-haul with a boom in the number of routes being offered, mainly on the North Atlantic network, but with other flights added into Asia and possibility South America.
Yet this is not a new phenomenon. Sir Freddie Laker, the aviation entrepreneur, offered cheap transatlantic flights four decades ago. In 1977, he sold no-frills seats on his Skytrain from London to New York for as little as £59, a third of the cost of his competitors.
His profits were £1 million in the first year. However, by 1982 Skytrain had gone bust; priced out by airlines that dropped their fares to put Laker out of business. Now, experts suggest that the model is on the rise again due, in large part, to the development of lighter jets that burn less fuel to keep costs down.
Aircraft such as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and 737 Max, and the A350 XWB and A321Neo from Airbus, are pushing the boundaries of long-haul travel. Jets built of carbon plastic fibres and other composite materials cut weight by a fifth and engine makers such as Rolls-Royce are using lighter alloys.
Engineers are rethinking every aspect of design to keep weight down, including windows, seats, wings, the tail, rudder and even replacing the pilot’s controls with touch-screens.
WestJet, flying between the UK and Canada, stripped the seatback screens from its aircraft in favour of streaming films to passengers’ phones or tablet computers — reportedly removing two thirds of a ton from each plane.
In the UK, low-cost long-haul is being led by Norwegian. From 2017, it will expand its Gatwick operation from 22 to 34 flights a week, starting at £135 one-way. This includes a twice-daily service to New York JFK.
Elsewhere, WestJet flies from Gatwick and Glasgow to Canada, with prices from £180.
The German airline Eurowings offers the Far East and South and North America. Wow, the Icelandic budget airline, flies from Britain to the US and Canada, via Reykjavik. It has fares from £119 one-way.
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