Day trips to New York: that’s the promise from Norwegian, the low-cost transatlantic airline, as it steps up its air wars with British Airways.
The Oslo-based carrier is launching a second daily service from Gatwick to New York JFK on 10 August next year. The significant of the new departure is that it will be easily the earliest flight from the UK to the US.
At present the first westbound departure is on United from Heathrow to Washington DC at 7.30am, arriving in the American capital at 11.15am, local time.
But Norwegian’s new flight will depart from the Sussex airport at 6am and be the first westbound arrival in New York at 9am. Not only will this miss the long queues for American immigration and customs, it will also, according to the airline, allow “business travellers to attend all-important meetings throughout the day and depart the same evening”.
The evening flight back to Gatwick departs 14 hours later, at 11pm. For a Tuesday in October, the day-return fare is £354 return. In Premium Class, the fare is £914.
British Airways flies once-daily from Gatwick to New York, but from Heathrow it offers around a dozen flights a day. The first to JFK is at 8.20am, arriving at 11.20am, and the last return at around 11pm. Because of the way BA prices tickets when the passenger does not stay away over a Saturday night, the cheapest deal on the same day is £1,740 — almost five times as much as Norwegian’s basic fare.
The two airlines are engaged in ferocious transatlantic competition from Gatwick. In the first round, Norwegian launched services to Fort Lauderdale and Oakland, cut-price gateways to Miami and San Francisco respectively. BA responded with new flights to both destinations. Norwegian has now raised the stakes by increasing services to both airports from next summer. It will also add a third weekly flight to Orlando, challenging Virgin Atlantic as well as British Airways.
Thomas Ramdahl, Chief Commercial Officer at Norwegian, said: “By expanding the number of transatlantic flights from Gatwick, we are giving tourists and business passengers more flexibility, attractive fares and convenient schedules.
"With nine more 787 Dreamliners entering our fleet next year, this will be just the beginning of our UK expansion.”
British Airways responded robustly. A spokesperson said: “From next year we’ll be offering customers low cost flights to Fort Lauderdale and Oakland at £189 each way from Gatwick and unlike other airlines there is no extra charge for food and drink on board. No extra charge to watch the hundreds of films and TV shows we offer. No extra charge for blankets. And don’t worry about all that shopping you’re bound to come back with, you’ll be able to bring two bags into the cabin and one more in the hold, and guess what, there’s no extra charge.”
The return segment of Norwegian’s new link between Gatwick and New York will offer the first lunchtime departure from the US city to London since the demise of Concorde. The return flight is scheduled to leave JFK at noon, when the airport is much quieter than during the early evening rush, and arrive at Gatwick just before midnight.
Going west, the only earlier departure from Europe to the US is at 5.55am from Dublin to Los Angeles on Ethiopian Airlines. It arrives beside the Pacific at 8.30am.
Ethiopian Airlines has also announced a new express link from Heathrow to Victoria Falls in Zambia. From 26 March next year it will serve the scenic location, on the border with Zimbabwe, with a two-hour connection in Addis Ababa. It will save several hours on the existing connection via Johannesburg.
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