Increasing competition for the long-haul, low-cost transatlantic market will be a boon for passengers as airlines tussle for a share of the market, a leading aviation analyst has said,.
Aer Lingus owner International Airlines Group’s (IAG) new low-cost transatlantic service, called Level, had its maiden voyage, flying from Barcelona to Los Angeles, while Icelandic carrier Wow Air has launched a €65 seat sale from Cork and Dublin to seven North American cities to combat Norwegian Air’s entry into the market.
Norwegian, which will make history when the first direct flight from Cork to the US will take off in July, announced this week that it is to add long-haul flights from Rome to the US.
Goodbody aviation analyst Mark Simpson said the aggressive competition bode well for passengers.
He said airline bosses such as Willie Walsh of IAG realised they had underestimated Ryanair and other low-cost airlines when they entered the intra-European market in the 1990s.
“They are on record as saying they would be foolish not to learn those lessons by entering the long-haul low-cost transatlantic market,” said Mr Simpson. “It will not fundamentally change the transatlantic model because there will always, for instance, be demand for business flying out of Heathrow. But it does mean customers will have more and more options in the future.”
Managing director of Cork Airport, Niall MacCarthy, said the entry by Norwegian, Wow Air, IAG and other airlines into the market was one of the most exciting developments in aviation for passengers.
“You also have Boost which is a subsidiary of Air France, Eurowings, which is a subsidiary of Lufthansa, and Canadian airline WestJet in the market,” said Mr MacCarthy. “Cork having two such options in Norwegian and Wow Air is wonderful to have. We always said low-cost, long-haul flying would work. Now it is crucial that the people of Munster support the routes.”
IAG chief Willie Walsh recently expressed his professional admiration for Norwegian founder Bjorn Kjos, saying it had “seen a way to do it in a different way than the traditional airlines”.
IAG’s Level will fly from Barcelona to Los Angeles twice a week and three times weekly to San Francisco.
Mr Walsh said: “In 2018, Level will increase its fleet to five aircraft and we are considering other European bases for the operation.” A Norwegian spokesperson said the airline welcomed the competition for passengers and that it was proof the model would work.
“The growth of Norwegian’s low-cost long-haul operation simply underlines the huge passenger demand for quality, affordable travel. As an ambitious airline with a huge aircraft order, we have plans for continued global growth with increased flights, new routes and expansion into new markets.”
Wow Air’s move to cut fares from Cork and Dublin is being seen as an aggressive move to combat Norwegian, which launched its own sale last week, cutting one-way fares to €99 from Cork to Rhode Island and Dublin and Shannon to Rhode Island and New York. Wow Air’s offer flies via Reykjavik to Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, New York, and Pittsburgh in the US, and Montreal and Toronto in Canada.
Meanwhile, the sale of George Best Belfast City Airport to investment fund 3i as part of an overall €700m deal, has been completed.