Norwegian Air takes on transatlantic market with budget flights

Reuters

* Will fly route with Dreamliners

* One-way tickets to New York start at $240

* Only budget airline with Britain-U.S. routes

LONDON, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Norwegian Air Shuttle will take on one of the most competitive markets in the worldfrom next summer, launching low-cost flights between Britain andthe United States.

Norwegian, which this year became the only European budgetairline to fly transatlantic routes, will fly to New York, LosAngeles and Fort Lauderdale from London's Gatwick airport, usingits new Boeing Dreamliners, it said on Thursday.

One-way tickets will start at 149 pounds ($240) to New Yorkand 199 pounds ($320) to Los Angeles, offering an up to 50percent discount compared to the best fares from London's rivalHeathrow airport, Gatwick said in a statement.

"Gatwick is ideal because we have a lot of feeder flights inand out of there," Norwegian CEO Bjoern Kjos told a newsconference. "Gatwick also has one of the biggest networks inEurope when you take all the EasyJet and Ryanair traffic there. It will give us a lot of transfer trafficopportunities."

Norwegian started flying to New York and Bangkok from itsScandinavian bases this year, saying its new Boeing Dreamlinerswill save more than 20 percent on fuel, making budget long-haulflights viable.

Its long-haul efforts were hampered first by the latedelivery of its Dreamliners, then by the repeated breakdown ofthe brand new jets, which forced the airline to ground one ofthe planes and ask Boeing for repairs just one month after itsdelivery.

Budget carriers have tried for decades to fly long-haulroutes but with the exception of a few Asian carriers likeQantas unit Jetstar and AirAsia X, most havegiven up because the cost savings were not there.

On short-haul routes budget carriers can save as much ashalf the cost compared to a traditional airline but in long-haulroutes, where fuel is disproportionately large expense, thesavings could be cut in half.

Passengers also tend to fly with checked baggage on longerroutes and demand greater inflight services, further diminishingthe potential savings.

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