Norwegian has been trying to optimize their route network lately, as they’ve focused on profitability rather than growth.
Norwegian’s Airport Adjustments
One interesting change Norwegian has made in the past 12 months is some of the airports they fly to. No, I’m not talking about the general regions they fly to as such (though they’ve changed some of those as well), but rather the airports in a region they choose to serve.
Often we see low cost carriers fly to airports with lower fees, rather than the major international hubs in a region. Back in the day we saw Norwegian exclusively fly to Oakland in the Bay Area, and fly to Fort Lauderdale in South Florida.
About a year ago, Norwegian announced that they’d move their London Gatwick flights from Oakland to San Francisco, and from Fort Lauderdale to Miami.
I guess this has been a success, because the airline is now extending that concept further.
Norwegian Moving All Flights From OAK To SFO
Norwegian has announced that they’ll be consolidating all of their Bay Area flights to SFO as of the summer of 2020, meaning they’ll be pulling out of OAK.
In the summer of 2020 Norwegian will fly from San Francisco to Barcelona, London, Oslo, Paris, and Rome. The routes from Barcelona, London, and Paris have already been moved to San Francisco, and the other two routes will be moved as well.
Matthew Wood, Norwegian’s SVP of Commercial, had the following to say:
“For the summer season 2020 and beyond, we will offer all our five Bay Area flights from San Francisco International Airport, which will better position us for our return to profitability. We would like to thank our partners and friends at Oakland International Airport for their tremendous support during our operation from May 2014 to just a few months ago. As the largest foreign airline in the Bay Area, we look forward to offer American travellers unbeatable fares matched with our award-winning onboard product and service out of SFO.”
What’s Motivating The Move To SFO?
At the time when Norwegian first announced their relocation to Miami and San Francisco, they gave a few reasons for this, and I suspect that still rings true:
- Better yields — while fees are often higher for the primary international airpots in a region, airlines can often also get better yields (meaning they can charge more for tickets)
- Better cargo opportunities — often there are more cargo opportunities at the major international hubs in a region
- Visibility in more search engines — while some searches will show flights out of Oakland when searching “San Francisco,” others won’t, so you’re opening yourself up to a larger customer base by flying out of the primary international airport in a region
- Attracting premium passengers — this is along the lines of higher yields, but many business travelers prefer the perceived convenience of traveling out of the major international airport in a region, rather than a secondary airport
Oakland Airport’s Rough International Journey
Oakland has had a really rough time when it comes to their long haul international flights. In addition to Norwegian flights, just a couple of years ago:
- British Airways flew from London Gatwick to Oakland, but that flight was canceled
- LEVEL flew from Barcelona to Oakland, but that flight was moved to San Francisco
At this point, the only long haul flight out of Oakland that hasn’t been formally canceled is Azores Airlines’ flight to Terceira, though best I can tell that’s not actually even in the schedule for this coming summer.
So at this point has Oakland completely lost long haul flights? If so, that’s rough…
It seems that the switch to SFO has worked out well for Norwegian, which shows that clearly the upsides of flying out of SFO outweigh the higher fees associated with it.
Furthermore, if they’re going to have at least some flights out of SFO, I imagine the incremental cost of switching more flights to SFO is minimal, since there are economies of scale with each incremental flight in terms of ticket staff, advertising, etc.
Are you surprised to see Norwegian move all flights from OAK to SFO?