Norwegian estimates its current Gatwick long-haul summer capacity is at around 670,000 seats and it claims BA’s is at 680,000 seats, and Virgin Atlantic’s 400,000.
Speaking in London on Tuesday, Norwegian’s chief executive Bjorn Kjos told TTG: “We are closing in.”
Kjos confirmed he would soon add more Boeing 787 long-haul aircraft at Gatwick. “We will go from 8 to 12 wide-bodies this year. Next year it depends on the slots. I can easily fly 20 aircraft from Gatwick. It is by far the centre point of our expansion,” he said. He added that new Gatwick aircraft would offer 56 premium seats, 21 more than currently on offer, due to strong demand.
Norwegian launched flights to Buenos Aires this week and confirmed that the four a week would move to daily next winter. New services to Austin and Chicago will also commence this year. Increased frequencies to Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale are planned, with ambitions to double the current New York flying pattern. “We could easily serve four daily New York flights if we get the slots,” Kjos added.
Norwegian is in talks with Russian officials to get access to the Siberian route corridor that will shorten journey times to Asia. Kjos said he had UK government support to begin services to cities such as Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing. “It could bring millions of Chinese and Japanese visitors to the UK,” he said.
Meanwhile, Norwegian plans to operate 152 routes from bases at Buenos Aires and Cordoba in Argentina, 80 of which will be international, mainly to neighbouring countries.
Further UK expansion is planned from 2020, when eight new Airbus A321 LR aircraft are delivered. These will be used to offer cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia and Minneapolis where demand is lower from the UK but which are ripe for introducing the budget formula to US travellers.
Kjos said he had considered buying Monarch’s slots at Gatwick but that the cost and the need to use them immediately or lose them had deterred him.
TTG contacted BA and Virgin for comment. BA will introduce Toronto and Las Vegas this summer, but has directed most of its Gatwick expansion to short-haul.