Norwegian Air expands with new route to Tampa as Ryanair boss calls the airline 'a dog'

Expansion at Gatwick to compete with British Airways, but key routes to Austin and Seattle dropped for winter

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Monday 25 June 2018 14:59 BST
IAG and Ryanair chief executives discuss their participation in Norwegian airlines expansion

As speculation grows about the future of Norwegian, the low-cost airline has announced a dramatic expansion of long-haul flights from Gatwick for the coming winter.

Norwegian launches a new twice-weekly link from the Sussex airport to Tampa from 31 October 2018. It will compete direct with British Airways’ daily nonstop service from Gatwick. The lead-in fare on Norwegian is £175.

A spokesperson for British Airways said: “With all the hidden extras, Norwegian customers will find themselves paying virtually the same as British Airways if they buy just one meal, a drink, snack and a single movie for the nine-hour flight.”

A spokesperson for Norwegian said: “We have never charged for inflight entertainment and provide customers with clear choices throughout the booking process to enhance their journey, such as pre-ordering a meal or choosing a preferred seat.

"We look forward to welcoming passengers on board who wish to experience a new and fresh way to travel to Tampa.”

The Oslo-based airline will also increase services to daily on the routes from Gatwick to Boston, Fort Lauderdale and Buenos Aires – again, competing with BA’s existing operations.

But links to Austin and Seattle have been dropped for the winter, and services to Chicago and Oakland are being reduced.

Thomas Ramdahl, the carrier’s chief commercial officer, said: “Norwegian continues to offer customers increased choice, flexibility and value throughout winter 2018.”

The launch was announced as MPs prepare to vote on expansion at Heathrow. In 2015 the Davies Commission recommended against a second runway at Gatwick and in favour of a third at Heathrow, which the government has endorsed.

Gatwick has long claimed that its expansion proposals are cheaper and less controversial, and that it has strong potential as a long-haul hub.

The airport’s chief commercial officer, Guy Stephenson, said: “Norwegian’s new Tampa service, a new daily schedule for the existing Buenos Aires and Boston routes and increases to other services, all give our passengers yet more choice and flexibility.”

IAG, the parent company of British Airways, has taken a 4.61 per cent stake in Norwegian. But its approaches to take over the airline have been rebuffed.

Last week the chief executive of IAG, Willie Walsh, praised his counterpart at Norwegian, Bjorn Kjos, saying: “I admire his ambition and I admire his bravery.”

But he added: “The company clearly is in a situation where its financial position is very poor.”

And Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, rebuffed an assertion by Mr Kjos that his airline had made an offer for Norwegian in the past year: “We’ve made no such offer in the last 12 months or ever. I’ve asked Bjorn to send me a crate of whatever he was drinking at the time because it must be pretty good stuff.

“We will not be making an offer for Norwegian – not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

“I think, like Willie, Bjorn’s a great guy but the airline is a dog.”

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