Low-cost transatlantic air travel returns to Gatwick next summer, with a network of US flights that bears a strong resemblance to the routes pioneered by Freddie Laker.
Norwegian, Europe's third-largest no-frills airline, starts flying to New York JFK, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale in Florida next July. Flights to New York will operate three times a week, with two weekly services to each of the other destinations.
Heathrow-JFK is the busiest intercontinental air route in the world with more than 20 flights each day, each way. Los Angeles is served by at least six daily flights from Heathrow, with four airlines competing. Fort Lauderdale competes with Miami airport to serve southern Florida and the busy cruise-ship business. The city is is not currently connected with the UK.
Introductory fares to New York are £149 one-way. After Air Passenger Duty is deducted from Norwegian's fare, the airline will be left with just £82 - the standard fare that prevailed when Laker Airways went bust in 1982. Since then, People Express, Virgin Atlantic, Continental, British Airways and Delta have all tried a Gatwick-New York route, but failed to make it pay.
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner will operate the flights. Passengers will pay for meals, drinks and checked-in baggage.
Bjorn Kjos, chief executive of Norwegian, revealed the routes at a press conference in London today. He said that low-cost long-haul could work only as an extension of a successful short-haul network, and only with the right aircraft. "The fuel efficiency and also the utilisation of the Dreamliner are much better. If we fly the next best aircraft in the market the extra cost would be £5m a year."
Mr Kjos said that he expected many European travellers to fly to Gatwick in order to transfer to transatlantic flights: "People will 'self-connect'. I believe that's the future". His airline will increase services from Gatwick next summer, including new routes to Santorini, Corfu and Budapest.
Gatwick's chief executive, Stewart Wingate, said: "Competition is what it's all about. This is quite transformational. Reaching out into the North Atlantic is giving more choice to passengers."
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