More than just rippling the pond, Norwegian is creating some serious waves. UK sales manager Mitchell Hawes tells Gary Noakes about the airline’s competitive edge.
When Norwegian adds a second daily Gatwick-New York flight to its schedules in August, it’s a fair bet that celebrations will be a muted affair, given its 6am departure slot. Norwegian will set off more than two hours before any other UK flight to New York and its Boeing 787 will arrive back at Gatwick just before midnight, which as they say in the industry, is really “sweating the asset” – making full use of the fleet to minimise costs.
Mitchell Hawes, Norwegian’s UK & Ireland sales manager, admits the ultra early departure time is a risk, but adds: “There is a price for everything.” Price has been key to Norwegian’s success. At Gatwick it has been very successful with 90%-plus loads on JFK and Los Angeles, its two most popular routes, helped, Hawes adds, by 20-30% of passengers having transferred from Norwegian’s flights from mainland Europe.
British Airways has had to take notice. It resurrected its Gatwick- New York flight last year and this summer, adds Oakland and Fort Lauderdale, two key Norwegian routes. BA’s chief executive Alex Cruz recently conceded that he was starting these destinations because he had learned from Norwegian “that people wanted to fly there”, something Hawes sees as a big compliment. “BA entering the market
adds weight to the destination rather than taking it away from us,” he adds.
More telling, perhaps, is that BA has reconfigured its Gatwick Boeing 777 economy cabins from 9 to 10 abreast, which BA claims brings it lower seat costs than its rival. Hawes says this “stretches the truth”, because of the 787’s lower fuel burn.
“We’re 3-3-3, they are 3-4-3, they are having to compromise heavily,” he adds. “We’re a small fish compared with United or Delta, it’s a compliment that BA believes that we’re a serious competitor.”