Norwegian Moves London Flights From Oakland And Fort Lauderdale To San Francisco And Miami

Despite a turbulent year where it looked like Norwegian could be acquired by their biggest competitor, IAG (which owns British Airways and Iberia), Norwegian continues to expand, and just recently announced a new route to Rio de Janeiro.

Norwegian operates a range of transatlantic routes using their 787 aircraft, with a particular focus on routes from London Gatwick to destinations in the US. They do mostly fly to the ‘primary’ airports in each US city they serve (like Los Angeles’ LAX and and New York’s JFK), though in San Francisco and Miami they have chosen to fly to the ‘secondary’ airports instead, Oakland and Fort Lauderdale.

This strategy makes sense where landing fees would be cheaper than flying to the primary airports in each city/region, given Norwegian is technically a low cost carrier.

Their biggest competitor, British Airways, already flies to Miami as well as San Francisco. British Airways is by far the biggest European airline in the US in terms of destinations served.

Once Norwegian announced flights to Oakland and Fort Lauderdale, British Airways followed. British Airways has since cancelled their Oakland route.

Norwegian has just announced they will be moving their Oakland flights to San Francisco’s SFO airport, and their Fort Lauderdale flights to Miami’s MIA airport, as of March 31, 2019.

They have said given four reasons for the decision:

  • Better yields — by flying to the premium, primary airport in each city they should be able to charge more for their fares, noting the landing fees are likely higher in the primary airports so their costs will be greater, hence why they chose the cheaper secondary airports to start with
  • Better cargo opportunities — large logistics companies would rather collect cargo at primary airports where they already have facilities than secondary airports
  • Visibility in more search engines — if you search ‘San Francisco’ in a flight search engine some will only show SFO, while others will suggest adding OAK as well; some passengers would not realise Oakland is a secondary San Francisco area airport, so would not think to book a flight landing there
  • Attracting premium passengers — who would look to fly to the business airports of SFO and MIA rather than the less convenient, more leisure focused airports of OAK and FLL

Norwegian will continue to service Fort Lauderdale and Oakland from other European destinations like Barcelona, Copenhagen and Paris-Orly, but considers its London Gatwick flights as its most premium transatlantic flights, hence why they are the first to be ‘upgraded.’

Bottom line

Norwegian’s strategy has been unpredictable in the past, and Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has again said Norwegian does not have enough free cash to last through this coming Northern winter, which is a much quieter travel period.

I really like Norwegian, so its great to see them ‘upgrade’ their flights to more premium, primary airports. If the four reasons they have given above are indeed true, it shows a maturity and focus that will be needed if they are to survive long term as a carrier.

What do you make of Norwegian upgrading these destinations?

Comments

  1. James the title for this article doesn’t make sense because the airline is not moving from those cities they are simply moving one route.

  2. That Ryanair idiot has no idea what he is talking about…. Norwegian has enough moner to buy his airline outlast…..

  3. It makes sound business sense, especially given that 2019 will see additional consolidation in the industry. Expect several LCC’s to merge/disappear. Meanwhile keep enjoying the €320 transatlantic flights EuropeCalifornia until the party abruptly ends around Easter.

  4. @ Ryan – good pick up. It’s tricky to fit everything in the title with the limited characters available for it to display properly in Google searches etc but I’ll extend this one anyway. Cheers.

  5. Maybe I am a little biased, but I think that the Fort Lauderdale airport is still a better fit for the Norwegian to Gatwick flight considering than Miami.

  6. I’m not sure I understand what sense it makes for them to operate some flights to Oakland and others to SFO. Consolidated operations would seem to save money

  7. @James:
    Two comments from someone who lives in Oakland:
    1: Lot’s of deja vu here– when jetBlue started it built a strong west coast focus city at OAK but abruptly moved most of their operations to SFO. We still have one red-eye to JFK and a couple of flights per day to LGB. The US majors have pretty much abandoned OAK as well.
    On the other hand Southwest has made Oakland work really well for them. Wonder what they know
    2: Not sure about your point about freight logistics. OAK is the major bay hub for UPS, FedEx, and others, so the local freight handling world certainly knows about OAK.

  8. In truth, depending on where in SF you’re going, OAK might be just as convenient as SFO—and certainly less delay prone. I do agree that SFO probably has better “brand recognition” for those visiting the Bay Area.

  9. It costs me around $100-200 more to get to OAK than SFO, generally eating up the cost savings of Norwegian (after factoring in baggage/seat charges and such). Glad they’re moving to SFO; hope they’ll keep their low fares, even if they’re slightly higher due to SFO’s higher fees.

  10. £10 says by February-April 2019 Norwegian will have lost much more money because of the much lower passenger numbers. That will then be followed by either IAG or Lufthansa Group making an offer for the airline again

  11. As a frequent flyer out of south Florida, MIA is a bigger pain in the rear to get to and more of a hassle to deal with once there than FLL, which is centrally located within the south Florida metroplex. I’ll grant that MIA is more convenient for those heading to Miami proper/South Beach, but outside of that give me FLL for a direct flight anyday.

  12. SFO is delay ridden, the city dropped the ball when they cancelled the expansion after 9/11. Oakland is just across the bay from SFO. Bad mistake if you ask me.

  13. Agree with Dan. They now have competition from not only BA (2 flights a day) but United (another 2 flights a day) + Virgin Atlantic.
    Given the precarious state of Norwegian, I don’t see the sense of moving to an airport That has notorious delays and hostile competition.

  14. What this really shows is that the Bay Area could use an airport code that lumps SFO and OAK (and maybe SJC) together. The same way you can search for NYC or LON on OTAs and get several airports at once.

  15. Oakland; door open to in-uber can take as little as 12 min including immigration. Don’t see how SFO can beat that.

  16. That’s a shame; OAK is not a pretty airport but it is hella convenient and easy to get in/out of, for me at least.

    The lounge Norwegian uses there for Premium pax (while small) also has some pretty decent catering

  17. FLL is also closing down a runway soon for repairs, so lots of frequencies are being lowered/flights being moved to MIA/PBI.

  18. Not sure I entirely buy the move from OAK to SFO – the search engine visibility argument makes some sense, and if there’s high-yield freight originating in SF itself or in San Mateo County their flights would be more attractive if shippers didn’t have to cross a bridge.

    The “business airport” argument is more mixed – with the BART shuttle train to OAK you can get from OAK to downtown SF just as fast as you can from SFO. If your destination is on the Peninsula, then SFO has the advantage, and if you’re going to the East Bay, “Contracostapolis”, or further afield and you’re going to rent a car, OAK is easier.

    Higher yields? Unless Norwegian really aims to attract a lot of business travelers, I just don’t see yields increasing to the point of offsetting the increased expenses at SFO.

    I flew in and out of OAK for the first time for Thanksgiving travel, and while the airport could certainly use a fresh-up and some better food options (or at least some that open in time for the first flights of the day), it was convenient, especially as I was driving to Eureka and OAK meant one less bridge (or scenic but slow drive through SF itself) to deal with.

    Can’t speak as readily to FLL vs MIA – perhaps some connecting freight from the smaller Latin American airlines?

  19. As a 10 year+ resident of San Francisco and a California resident all my life, I can say that OAK has a perception/visibility problem (even though it is not deserved). I know many San Francisco residents who often overlook OAK as an option, simply because they forget about it. Or are not even aware of its international flights. At times, I even have to remember to go back and add in OAK into my searches when checking flight prices because it does not always auto populate when searching “San Francisco”. Also since WN is the dominant carrier at the airport, a lot of fares won’t show up in most OTA searches. I can understand that people who are from out of town don’t even realize it is an option or realize that it is quite convenient to San Francisco itself. The truth is that OAK is actually fewer stops from downtown San Francisco than SFO when using BART public transit.

  20. Will they upgrade the passengers as well? Whereas Norwegian isn’t Ryanscare, they still fly way too many chavs across the world.

  21. Switching Oakland to SFO makes a *lot* of sense (for the reasons you mentioned). Fort Lauderdale to Miami? Not as much in my mind, if only because Miami has a rather lousy reputation for being overcrowded and having issues with immigration lines (due to being a major hub for travel from the Caribbean). With that being said, MIA probably has more connection possibilities.

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