Norwegian Air Plans Asia Routes as New York Seats Sell Fast

Norwegian Air Shuttle AS, Europe’s fourth-biggest discount airline, said tickets for the first few months of long-haul flights connecting Scandinavia with New York have almost sold out as it works on plans for routes to Asia.

Norwegian Air will commence twice weekly services to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport from both Oslo and Stockholm in May using Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner planes due for delivery in April as it challenges Nordic rival SAS Group.

“When we opened for sale, our website crashed,” Chief Executive Officer Bjorn Kjos said today in an interview in the Norwegian capital. New York flights are “just about sold out,” he said, declining to specify the number of seats available.

Norwegian Air will also start flying to Bangkok three times a week in June, and aims to add a second Asian base within five years at most, Kjos added. The carrier will offer a third weekly New York flight from Oslo and Stockholm the same month.

Asian travelers, especially those from China, are likely to account for 90 percent of tickets between the Far East and Europe within 15 years, the executive said. That will swing the dynamics of long-haul demand toward leisure travel, favoring low-cost operators and meaning that airlines will themselves need to be increasingly international, Kjos said.

787 Backing

“The future will be changes in the long-haul arena,” he said, adding that the increasing number of flights over Russia should allow for flows from Asia into Europe.

Kjos said he’s not “at all” concerned about delays to the 787 after Boeing’s latest model suffered a series of glitches, including a fire on a Japan Airlines Co. jet in Boston.

“There will be a lot of incidents on new planes,” he said. “There are fewer failures with the Dreamliner compared to the

777.” Kjos added that Boeing had confirmed in an e-mail that production of his company’s eight planes is on schedule.

The focus of Norwegian Air’s business has been on European discount flights, where the carrier has generally avoided going toe-to-toe with market No. 1 Ryanair Holdings Plc, the CEO said.

“We don’t like to compete with Ryanair directly if we have to fly with Scandinavian costs,” he said. “We don’t have any problem competing with Ryanair with the same cost base.”

Norwegian Air shares traded up 4 percent at 174.2 kroner at 3:31 p.m. in Oslo. The stock has added 21 percent this year.

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