Norwegian Air Picks U.S. Bases for Single-Aisle Europe Trips

  • Discounter selects airports north of New York, south of Boston
  • Stock gains after encouraging comments from White House

Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA said it has chosen the first two U.S. bases for the trans-Atlantic flights it plans to introduce later this year using Boeing Co. 737 single-aisle planes.

The discount airline will serve one airport north of New York City and another south of Boston, Chief Executive Officer Bjorn Kjos said Wednesday at a briefing in Brussels. He declined to name the bases since Federal Aviation Administration approvals are still required.

Kjos’s comments come after White House spokesman Sean Spicer provided a boost for his plans by saying that the U.S. has “a huge economic interest” in the trans-Atlantic project because of Norwegian’s role as a buyer of Boeing aircraft and its commitment to employing American crews.

Shares of the Fornebu, Norway-based closed 4.5 percent higher in Oslo after their biggest gain since Dec. 5, when the stock surged 15 percent following U.S. regulatory approval for the expansion of low-cost flights using a unit registered in Ireland.

Norwegian Air’s plan to deploy Boeing’s re-engined 737 Max on trans-Atlantic services is the latest move in its bid to establish a sustainable model for discounted long-haul flying. While the company already serves major American airports using 787 Dreamliner wide-bodies, the new flights will connect secondary cities in Europe with smaller U.S. terminals where fees are lower.

Kjos has previously touted White Plains airfield and Stewart airport in New York state as potential U.S. 737 bases, and has suggested that the first flights may be from Cork and Shannon in Ireland, Birmingham in England and Edinburgh, Scotland, with customers paying less than $150 for a round trip.

While the 189-seat Max 8s would be confined to flights from Europe’s western fringes to the northeastern U.S., Norwegian Air also has 30 extended-range Airbus Group SE A321neo narrow-bodies on order that could be used to add somewhat longer routes from locations such as Stavanger, Trondheim and Bergen in Norway and Aalborg in Denmark from 2022.

The only current trans-Atlantic 737 or Airbus Group SE A320 services with a near-normal load are flown by Canada’s WestJet Airlines Ltd. and link St. John’s, Newfoundland, with Dublin -- distance 2,000 miles -- and Halifax, Nova Scotia, with Glasgow in Scotland. The 737-700s used have 136 seats.

President Donald Trump will meet with U.S. airline executives Thursday, though it’s not clear whether Norwegian Air’s plans -- which are opposed by American carriers, unions and politicians alike -- will be on the agenda. That will “be decided when they meet,” White House spokesman Spicer said at a news briefing Monday.

Norwegian Air plans to double its U.S. staff to about 1,000 by the year’s end.

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