Norwegian Wants To Fly From Buenos Aires To Asia Via Perth (Hello, Antarctica!)

Filed Under: Norwegian

Ultra low cost carrier Norwegian has been growing like crazy, though there have been many questions about how sustainable their growth is. Ryanair’s CEO has even suggested that Norwegian is running out of cash, and will be out of business within months (which is probably a bit extreme, but…).

While I think that a lot of Norwegian’s growth has been rational and responded to markets that very much exist, other routes leave me scratching my head a bit more. This is one of those, even though this looks like a really cool route.

The West Australian reports that Norwegian intends to connect South America and Asia with one-stop service. The planned route? Buenos Aires to Perth to Singapore. Norwegian Air Argentina has been given approval to launch the route between Buenos Aires and Perth, and is now working on getting approval between Perth and Singapore.

If this route comes to fruition, it would spend hours flying over Antarctica, at least if it were to take a route similar to the direct air distance. While the entire journey would cover a distance of ~10,200 miles, the flight from Buenos Aires to Perth would cover a distance of ~7,800 miles, while the flight from Perth to Singapore would cover a distance of ~2,400 miles.

As it stands, the two most southerly longhaul routes are Buenos Aires to Auckland and Santiago to Sydney. As you can see, the direct air distance for those flights has you flying near Antarctica, but not over land.

Qantas has been known for operating charter flights that fly to Antarctica and back for sightseeing. The flights last about 12 hours, and much of that is spent over the continent.

So yeah, count me in for this Norwegian flight, as it seems like a lower cost option for flying over Antarctica. However, I’m skeptical about the long term demand for a route like this. Obviously there’s demand between South America and Asia, but is there enough demand specifically for an ultra low cost carrier on a 10,000+ mile journey, given all the other ways you can fly between the two continents on fairly inexpensive tickets?

  1. If introduced, this route changes your quickest way around all 6 continents. Probably looking at something like PER-EZE-MIA-MAD-CAI-DXB

  2. Their “strategy” just gets randomer and randomer. They are all over the place in Europe, starting and pulling routes, US-Carribean services, weird domestic Argentinian airline, and now what will certainly be a hugely unprofitable service from EZE to SIN via PER.

    How long can the massive losses and no strategic direction last before the plug is pulled?

  3. The southern hemisphere is not brilliantly connected, so anything that opens new possibilities is to be welcomed.

    I have to fly from Rio to Tokyo in a few weeks: the majority of routes involve transiting through the USA – which I do as infrequently as possible given the US’s tiresome insistence that transit passengers must clear US immigration rather than letting us stay in a sterile airside zone. Mexico is the same.

    Other routes involving a change in Latin America have part of the journey on carriers operating smaller regional jets (which means my carry-on has to go into the hold … no, thank you). My corporate travel agent at one point was arguing it would be better to return from Rio to London, then go from London to Tokyo – an insane routing (also involving travel from west to east, which is always the worst for jet lag).

    In the end, I’ve gone for an Emirates 5th freedom flight from GIG to EZE, then the Air New Zealand route via Auckland to Tokyo. But there didn’t feel like there were too many options in this part of the world.

    Then again, not sure I’d want to spend hours of my life in Norwegian’s bum-killing seats.

  4. When I compare prices I do not think the word “ultra low cost” is correct. Many of the other carriers offer a good product at more or less the same fare. Sometimes they have amazing prizes without food, choice of seat and luggage, but the number of seats are too limited to call the airline a “ultra low cost” in my opinion

  5. ” an insane routing (also involving travel from west to east, which is always the worst for jet lag).” Huh?? Jet lag is affected by your origin and destination time zones , not the direction you travel

  6. As an Australian I would have thought there was very little demand between PER and South America given there are several of options connecting in MEL or SYD. Given how far west Perth is, any connecting traffic from any other state in Australia will go via SYD or MEL rather than backtracking to PER. There is also a huge amount of LCC competition between PER and SIN as it is only a 4 hour flight so can easily be operated by an A320 or B737 which LCCs love to use. I doubt Norwegian will be able to compete on price on the SIN-PER legs.
    That being said, I understand QF does quite well connecting pax between SCL and SIN via SYD as it offers about the only logical connection between the two cities/countries. But Norwegian would probably have more success using MEL or OOL as their connection point. Is this new route(s) supposed to link up with their LGW-SIN flight? So you could potentially fly LGW-SIN-PER on Norwegian? There may be some demand for that.

  7. @Alex, you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about, describing Norwegian as having no strategic direction.

    It’s basically the opposite. Norwegian is one of the fastest growing carriers of them all. Where they see opportunity, they act.

  8. On Friday in the AA lounge at EZE saw the Norwegian plane on the tarmac. Couldn’t help but think what my Argentine and Uruguayan friends had been telling me over the past two weeks about how incredibly expensive it is for them to fly literally anywhere. By operating the longest flight out of LGW Norwegian got itself in the headlines once again, and liberalizing the sclerotic market in southern South America would benefit all travelers.

    An AA flight attendant on my onward connection after flying out of EZE agreed — these routes are hugely profitable for airlines like AA. And having flown on that awful old 767 from MIA-MVD for hopefully the last time it’s easy to see why people rejoice the arrival of Norwegian in Argentina. They’re sick and tired of being squeezed for huge fistfuls of cash to fly on tired old planes.

    That said I do wonder who this route will appeal to most.

  9. @Ole,

    They’re bleeding money. Maybe they should have stayed a little humble. I’m not sure that weird CEO of theirs should be so cocky; he’s pretty much a scammer who won’t pay off his loans.

  10. @Ben flying to SIN via PER is 1,000 miles shorter than via SYD/MEL. I suspect that’s a large motivating factor.

    But a 15 hour flight on Norweigan’s horrible seats? No thanks. Though I definitely welcome the competition and hope it will loosen the LA/AA stranglehold.

  11. I know a lot of people in Chile that travel to asia, it’s a nightmare, connecting via Australia or USA. Is PPT in a more of a half point between South America and Asia?, EZE-PPT-SIN?

  12. @ Steven M

    Agreed. It’s not a coincidence that Europe-EZE was one of the first routes offered by long haul LCC Level.

  13. @qasr I added a slight deviation to your direct flight path. As you can see, ETOPS 330 flight is possible with a roughly 8pc increase in distance.

    Regarding commercial viability: I think there is potentially massive demand for a route like this. Tourism is growing strongly both in South America and Asia, both as origination and destination, and alternatives for direct travel are slim.

  14. How does Norwegian legally operate these flights? My understanding was that airlines could only operate flights to and from their home country, with the exception being fifth freedom flights.

  15. @Super Norwegian has a subsidiary based in Argentina. Norwegian Air Argentina (DN). That’s how they get around that issue.

  16. @The nice Paul
    The argument of that article is not that, if flying between the same two cities, going west is easier than going east. It’s that if you’re crossing a fixed number of time zones, it’s easier if you are going west than going east. That is, if you’re going to the other side of the world (crossing exactly 12 time zones), it’s irrelevant which direction you travel (assuming you don’t have a long layover at the intermediate city).

  17. It’s meaningful that fly over antarctica but 7800miles is ultra long haul.. I wonder low cost carrier handle the inefficiency of ultra long haul flights..
    How about SIN-PER-CPT(JNB)-EZE(GRU)? Personally wanna fly that route on some day but there’s only one or two nonstop flight for PER-JNB and JNB-GRU and they’re too expensive..

  18. Qantas used to fly from Sydney to Johannesburg over Antarctica in the nineties. They were stopped because if you have a technical problem you are too many hours away from an alternate airport. Aircraft are generally more reliable now but there is an element of risk.

  19. “I know a lot of people in Chile that travel to asia, it’s a nightmare, connecting via Australia or USA.”

    So true. The guy next to me on MIA-MVD flight was with a group of Uruguayan businessmen who’d just flown PEK-DTW-MIA to get the connecting flight to Montevideo. Insane routing for their week of business meetings in China!

  20. One can fly from Asia to SCL via Sydney but prices are insane.
    So current options are via Europe or Middle East, which is the long way around but with a good transit experience, or via SYD which price wise is a rip-off, or via US but having to deal with US immigration because of the US not yet being able to handle transiting passengers.

  21. Pretty cool that you’d be able to basically do a round the world trip with Norwegian, as awful as that sounds.. LGW-EZE-PER-SIN-LGW

  22. Flying over Antarctica sounds interesting. However, I fear that the route is so far from alternate airports. I wonder if the only alternate airports are Durban and Cape Town, South Africa? Those are far away on the map. If the plane lands in Antarctica, the rescue would be a huge effort. I think the 757 and A320 have landed there on purpose.

  23. As someone that lives in Perth I know as if there is definitely demand between Perth and Singapore as already 4 different airlines operate the route with about 7-10 daily frequencies.
    Especially considering Norwegian has the 787 which is a kicker though even more so demand between Perth and London is insane with Emirates Etihad, Qatar, Singapore, Cathay, Thai, Malaysian,Garuda,China Southern all wanting a piece of the cake.(Mainly dominated by the ME3 and Singapore though).Even more so Perth has the highest number of UK migrants out of all the Australian cities hence on the reasons Qantas is starting direct flights between the two cities. So I think with Norwegian form PER – SIN – LGW could be very popular as there is demand first low cost carrier the operate the route and its on 787 Dreamliner in terms of demand between South America and Asia well apparently its very high and generally other airlines on the those routes are very expensive. Though the one grey area is demand between Perth and Buenos Aires which I don’t think is too high though I could be proven wrong.

    So yeah I would love to see this route happen better for consumers (especially considering I live in Perth) and its good for tourism and its cool over Antarctica and its great to see Norwegian grow though I can’t say weather will be taking this flight (at least the one form EZE – PER)

  24. Lucky on a slightly unrelated note you said you want to try Norwegian premium and with them starting EZE – PER – SIN you could just fly them on EZE – PER and then fly Qantas new PER – LHR route in their new Vantage XL business class seats and as an additional bonus you get to fly over Antarctica and also you could go form to US to Madrid in the of the 9 transatlantic airlines you want to review then Madrid to EZE on Aerolineas Argentina and then LHR back to the US on another of nine transatlantic airlines you want to review

  25. Certainly an interesting route; and being partially SIN-based, might actually considering flying them if they price their fares right. I’m loyal to my FFPs, but I wouldn’t turn a good deal down in Y+ or J.

  26. @ ron

    “One can fly from Asia to SCL via Sydney but prices are insane.
    So current options are via Europe or Middle East, which is the long way around but with a good transit experience, or via SYD which price wise is a rip-off, or via US but having to deal with US immigration because of the US not yet being able to handle transiting passengers.”

    OR … as I commented further up the page, from EZE on Air New Zealand via Auckland to Asia.

    And New Zealand is for some people less restrictive than Australia for visas (eg, I need an evisa to enter Australia, but nothing at all to enter NZ).

  27. Initially impressed with Norweigan London to Oakland but London to Buenos Aries in a new seating plan 787 9 was cramped and poor value for money. In 10 years Ive flown every possible carrier from London to a South American gateway and for people who can plan a special offer on Lufthansa, Air France or KLM far exceeds Norweigan. Im flying home with them tomorrow and have just paid for an up grade which brings the return price higher than Ive paid with the fore named carriers.

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