Norse Atlantic: New Transatlantic Low Cost Airline (Details Revealed)

Norse Atlantic: New Transatlantic Low Cost Airline (Details Revealed)

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In the spring of 2021 we first learned about Norse Atlantic Airways, a new Norwegian low cost long haul airline startup (sounds like a familiar concept, eh?). Today the company has revealed lots more details, ranging from a new estimated time for operations launching, to unveiling a new livery.

Let’s cover the basics about the airline, including the latest updates.

Norse Atlantic Airways basics

Norse Atlantic Airways is a transatlantic airline startup that plans to launch operations in 2022:

  • The airline was founded by Bjorn Kljos, Bjørn Kise, and Bjørn Tore Larsen (that’s a lot of Bjorns/Bjørns), who own a majority of the airline; they’re industry veterans who previously held top positions at Norwegian Air Shuttle and OSM Aviation
  • The airline plans to use Boeing 787s to operate transatlantic routes
  • In Europe the airline will operate out of cities like London, Oslo, and Paris, and in the United States the airline will operate out of cities like Los Angeles, Miami, and New York
  • The airline hopes to launch operations in the spring of 2022, specifically in the end of the first quarter or beginning of the second quarter, when it’s hoped that transatlantic travel demand will have recovered
  • Exact routes haven’t yet been revealed, but we should expect details about three months prior to launch (so probably in very late 2021 or early 2022)

As CEO Bjørn Tore Larsen describes the company’s plans:

“We strongly believe that there is a need for a new and innovative airline serving the low-cost intercontinental market with modern, more environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient aircraft as the world gradually reopens. Our plans are on track and operations will commence when travel restrictions are lifted and demand for transatlantic travel is back.

Based on the current situation, we anticipate that all our 15 Dreamliners will be flying customers between Europe and the U.S. next summer. We will launch our ticket sales approximately three months prior to first flight and will offer exciting destinations that have proven to be attractive.”

Norse Atlantic Airways will fly former Norwegian 787s

Norse Atlantic Airways will fly 15 Boeing 787s

Norse Atlantic Airways has already signed lease agreements for a total of 15 Boeing 787s, all of which used to fly for Norwegian:

  • The airline is leasing nine Boeing 787s from AerCap, and six Boeing 787s from BOC Aviation
  • 12 of the planes will be 787-9s, while three of the planes will be 787-8s
  • Some of these planes have extremely long lease terms, of up to 16 years; the airline stated that these planes have been leased with “attractive rates and payment terms, allowing the company a flexible implementation during start-up of its operation”

I would imagine that these 787s will simply maintain the same interiors that they previously had with Norwegian, given that it’s the most cost efficient option. That’s good for consumers.

Norwegian’s 787s had a solid premium economy product, with recliner seats in 2-3-2 configuration. Norwegian premium economy was certainly a good value.

Norwegian 787 premium economy cabin

Meanwhile Norwegian’s economy was in a 3-3-3 configuration. While not the most spacious out there, the personal entertainment, mood lighting, power ports, and internet, were ultimately a solid offering for an ultra low cost carrier (Norse Atlantic plans to offer Wi-Fi, much like Norwegian).

Norwegian 787 economy cabin

Norse Atlantic Airways is highlighting the features of the 787, and there aren’t any real surprises there.

Norse Atlantic Airways 787 amenities

Norse Atlantic Airways livery & branding

Norse Atlantic Airways has today revealed its livery and basic elements of the brand, designed by a small in-house team and a local agency. As the idea behind the brand is described:

“Inspired by the Norsemen who traveled and explored the world with their state-of-the art longships, Norse Atlantic Airways will give people the opportunity to explore other continents by offering affordable flights on board modern and more environmentally friendly Boeing 787 Dreamliners.”

While the livery isn’t the most creative we’ve ever seen, I’d say it generally looks pretty sharp.

Norse Boeing 787 livery

Norse Atlantic Airways labor plans

Initially there were some concerns about whether Norse Atlantic Airways would get approval from regulators in the United States to launch these kinds of flights. Earlier this year the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Peter DeFazio, urged Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to block Norse Atlantic Airways from flying to the United States:

“At the end of 2016, the outgoing administration imprudently issued a foreign air carrier permit to Norwegian Air International — an airline that was ‘Norwegian’ in name only and established itself in Ireland under a flag of convenience to avoid Norway’s strong labor protections. Norwegian is bankrupt, and its U.S. services have ceased, but its founder is forming a new carrier that will likely seek a permit—Norse Atlantic—and it is imperative that you correct the error of 2016 and deny this airline’s application.”

Fortunately this shouldn’t be an issue for the airline, thanks to some things that have been revealed since then:

  • Norse Atlantic Airways plans to have around 1,600 employees by the summer of 2022, all permanently and directly employed by the airline
  • Norse Atlantic Airways has reached a union deal before even hiring the first flight attendant, clearly intended to mitigate this potential issue

Why I’m skeptical of Norse Atlantic Airways

Let me start by saying that Norse Atlantic Airways will be fantastic for consumers, just as Norwegian was. That being said, I don’t see how the business model here can make sense.

At the beginning of 2021 it was announced that Norwegian would discontinue long haul flights, as the airline was in bankruptcy protection. Norwegian was struggling for years even pre-pandemic, and has basically already had its nine lives.

The intentions for Norse Atlantic Airways are pretty clear — some investors (including a former Norwegian executive) with a clean balance sheet are trying to take over where Norwegian left off when it comes to long haul. There’s only one small problem — history has shown that low cost long haul airlines generally don’t work.

Now, to give some credit to this idea in general, or to perhaps express some hope:

  • Having an airline like Norse Atlantic Airways would be great for consumers, since it will keep legacy airlines in check, and will keep fares low
  • The general timeline for launching this airline isn’t terrible, since we should hopefully see transatlantic travel largely rebounding by next summer; the airline probably got a great deal on planes, so I imagine costs will be fairly low
  • The biggest issue with a transatlantic low cost carrier is how seasonal traffic is, as Norwegian could make money in summer, but was losing a significant amount the rest of the year; is there any way that Norse Atlantic Airways could learn from Norwegian’s mistakes and do a better job with a counter seasonal route network (though that concept has its own challenges)?

This is going to be an interesting one to watch. It has been made pretty clear that Norse Atlantic Airways will exclusively operate between Europe and the United States, and that market in winter sure isn’t an easy one, especially without business travelers.

Norse Atlantic Airways is Norwegian 2.0

Bottom line

Norse Atlantic Airways is the newest long haul, low cost airline startup. The airline essentially plans to pick up where Norwegian left off with its long haul network — the airline will fly former Norwegian 787s across the Atlantic using a low cost business model. The airline has now secured lease agreements for 15 planes, and plans to launch operations in the spring of 2022.

It seems pretty certain at this point that the airline will indeed launch operations. The question is how long it lasts, and what it will do different than Norwegian.

What do you make of Norse Atlantic Airways?

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  1. Apso Eyot

    I don’t know about this. I thought when Norwegian cut long-haul flights, they learned a hard lesson, but a good one - there are only a few select markets where low-cost long-haul airlines can actually do well. It’s obvious that they need to focus on underserved routes to succeed, and Norwegian failed primarily because they flew transatlantic routes with too much competition (like LGW, CDG, or MAD to JFK or LAX). In contrast, TUI long-haul...

    I don’t know about this. I thought when Norwegian cut long-haul flights, they learned a hard lesson, but a good one - there are only a few select markets where low-cost long-haul airlines can actually do well. It’s obvious that they need to focus on underserved routes to succeed, and Norwegian failed primarily because they flew transatlantic routes with too much competition (like LGW, CDG, or MAD to JFK or LAX). In contrast, TUI long-haul is highly successful because so many of their routes lack competition. That pattern makes a lot of sense, but I’d like to point out that there are some of these airlines that can be successful for a different reason—focusing on routes where there’s such a huge volume of passengers consistently flowing through that it pretty much doesn’t matter how much competition they face on them, because there’s just that much demand. These routes are easy money, but they are quite sparse. Some examples: French Bee does very well connecting Metropolitan France to overseas French territories. Zipair is wisely getting a piece of the enormous Japan to Hawaii market. And startup Air Premia will probably succeed flying far to places like LA that have a large Korean diaspora. FlyPop is smart to focus on the Indian diaspora in the UK (and eventually around the world), although they also have a focus on underserved routes. Cebu Pacific, Scoot, and Jetstar are somehow performing well. So even though I agree there’s a small margin of success with them, I wouldn’t go as far to immediately count any long-haul low-cost carrier out as a guaranteed failure.

    I wish Norse good luck. I think long-haul out of Oslo is generally pretty underserved, so they have somewhat of a niche they could build there (I could maybe see Oslo to MCO or MIA). Their livery isn’t as bad as I expected, and I like how they used the motif of a Viking ship, which is local to the region. So the curves make sense here. I do feel like the title font doesn’t really fit the rest of the livery, but otherwise it looks pretty sharp and distinctive. I also like how it isn’t the generic, modern, “all-white with colored tail where the edge of the tail color curves down the fuselage from the tail” kind of livery.

  2. Andrew

    They will certainly have a better shot at surviving the seasonality than their predecessor given their cost structure will be massively lower than before via huge rental payment deductions and lower labor costs while maintaining the lower maintenance costs and reduced fuel consumption (vs older aircraft types) that are present with younger vintage aircraft. Still a long shot though

  3. Weymar Osborne

    I'm assuming the company will be headquartered somewhere in the EU again? If so, they could legally operate flights between EU possessions in the Caribbean like Martinique, Sint Maarten, Guadeloupe, Aruba, and French Guiana to the US during the winter, right? Now I'm not sure what demand actually looks like between those destinations and whether it's enough to fill widebodies but it's an idea for what they could do with their planes in winter.

  4. Bob

    So ... Norwegian seems to be "bjorn again". :-)

  5. Never In Doubt

    For however long they live, I welcome the price competition for the majors.

  6. Jesse

    Haha, those livery renders are screenshots from Microsoft Flight Simulator!

    1. Eskimo

      Yeah, that's why it's so hard these days to tell between models and the real thing.
      Get a very powerful PC and play MSFS2020 with VR, the only thing missing is the hydraulics.

      Many new cabin interior on this site isn't even real but looks very real.

  7. John

    Lucky,

    I hear your argument on the lack of Norwegian's financial success.

    I'd say Norwegian had issues due to dumping (or at least very aggressive) pricing by the legacy carriers active on the same routes.

    No doubt legacies will fight Norse just as hard, too. But there's a chance antitrust authorities will wake up eventually. The EU's commissioners for competition are not afraid of taking on the biggest players, as they've demonstrated over and over...

    Lucky,

    I hear your argument on the lack of Norwegian's financial success.

    I'd say Norwegian had issues due to dumping (or at least very aggressive) pricing by the legacy carriers active on the same routes.

    No doubt legacies will fight Norse just as hard, too. But there's a chance antitrust authorities will wake up eventually. The EU's commissioners for competition are not afraid of taking on the biggest players, as they've demonstrated over and over again (think of Google, Microsoft, Gazprom, or Facebook).

  8. Endre

    The tail’s stylized rune is widely used in the right-wing Asatru pagan community. Bad symbolic choice.

  9. Sam G

    London should be a little easier now, with BA retiring their 747s they are forced to operate less flights to the US and the aircraft left are generally more premium heavy. This should mean they're more focused on running the remaining seats at a higher yield vs competing heavily with a lo-co on price. We're already seeing some very high fares on routes like Orlando for next year.

    Winter wise they'll be limited in a...

    London should be a little easier now, with BA retiring their 747s they are forced to operate less flights to the US and the aircraft left are generally more premium heavy. This should mean they're more focused on running the remaining seats at a higher yield vs competing heavily with a lo-co on price. We're already seeing some very high fares on routes like Orlando for next year.

    Winter wise they'll be limited in a counter-seasonal operation that would make sense unless they G-reg some aircraft - low frequency flights to Caribbean / Thailand / Maldives etc in conjunction with tour operators would be their best bet

    1. Sam G

      I'd also imagine they can squeeze a very good deal out of Gatwick, with Virgin gone and BA running a skeleton service a few 787 of long haul passengers every day will be very attractive. They can also participate in the "worldwide by Easyjet" network for connections

  10. shoeguy

    It didn't work the first time and it is very likely it won't the second time around in a much changed, likely forever, travel market. What a waste of investor time, money, effort and resources. Hard pass.

Featured Comments Load all 12 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Apso Eyot

I don’t know about this. I thought when Norwegian cut long-haul flights, they learned a hard lesson, but a good one - there are only a few select markets where low-cost long-haul airlines can actually do well. It’s obvious that they need to focus on underserved routes to succeed, and Norwegian failed primarily because they flew transatlantic routes with too much competition (like LGW, CDG, or MAD to JFK or LAX). In contrast, TUI long-haul is highly successful because so many of their routes lack competition. That pattern makes a lot of sense, but I’d like to point out that there are some of these airlines that can be successful for a different reason—focusing on routes where there’s such a huge volume of passengers consistently flowing through that it pretty much doesn’t matter how much competition they face on them, because there’s just that much demand. These routes are easy money, but they are quite sparse. Some examples: French Bee does very well connecting Metropolitan France to overseas French territories. Zipair is wisely getting a piece of the enormous Japan to Hawaii market. And startup Air Premia will probably succeed flying far to places like LA that have a large Korean diaspora. FlyPop is smart to focus on the Indian diaspora in the UK (and eventually around the world), although they also have a focus on underserved routes. Cebu Pacific, Scoot, and Jetstar are somehow performing well. So even though I agree there’s a small margin of success with them, I wouldn’t go as far to immediately count any long-haul low-cost carrier out as a guaranteed failure. I wish Norse good luck. I think long-haul out of Oslo is generally pretty underserved, so they have somewhat of a niche they could build there (I could maybe see Oslo to MCO or MIA). Their livery isn’t as bad as I expected, and I like how they used the motif of a Viking ship, which is local to the region. So the curves make sense here. I do feel like the title font doesn’t really fit the rest of the livery, but otherwise it looks pretty sharp and distinctive. I also like how it isn’t the generic, modern, “all-white with colored tail where the edge of the tail color curves down the fuselage from the tail” kind of livery.

Andrew

They will certainly have a better shot at surviving the seasonality than their predecessor given their cost structure will be massively lower than before via huge rental payment deductions and lower labor costs while maintaining the lower maintenance costs and reduced fuel consumption (vs older aircraft types) that are present with younger vintage aircraft. Still a long shot though

Weymar Osborne

I'm assuming the company will be headquartered somewhere in the EU again? If so, they could legally operate flights between EU possessions in the Caribbean like Martinique, Sint Maarten, Guadeloupe, Aruba, and French Guiana to the US during the winter, right? Now I'm not sure what demand actually looks like between those destinations and whether it's enough to fill widebodies but it's an idea for what they could do with their planes in winter.

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