Norwegian Air could land slots at exclusive London Heathrow next summer

Dec 2, 2019

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Norwegian Air has been awarded slots at London Heathrow airport, opening up the notoriously difficult-to-access airport to the airline’s discount flights.

The Oslo-based carrier’s U.K. subsidiary was awarded six slots — enough for three round-trip flights — per week at Heathrow (LHR) for the Summer 2020 season that begins at the end of March, according to airport flight coordinator Airport Coordination Limited and confirmed by Norwegian. The slot awards were first reported by Simple Flying.

“We have a strong track record of disrupting incumbent carriers and alliances by offering low fares and award winning service on specific routes and destinations that were previously operated as monopolies”, Norwegian spokesman Anders Lindström told TPG. “We continuously adjust our network in response to demand and we will announce any further changes as and when it is appropriate to do so”.

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If Norwegian uses the slots to launch long-haul low-cost air service to the U.S. from Heathrow, it would be the first airline to do so. Most discounters serve one of London’s other airports, including Norwegian who operates one of its largest long-haul bases at London Gatwick (LGW). Past long-haul discount operators like Laker Airways’ Skytrain also flew to the U.S. from Gatwick.

Heathrow is a notoriously difficult airport to access for airlines. Carriers typically spend millions of dollars for new slots at the airport. For example, Delta Air Lines bought 10 slots from Croatia Airlines for $19.5 million in 2017, or nearly $2 million per slot.

Norwegian’s success securing Heathrow slots from authorities gives hope to JetBlue Airways’ quest to secure access at Heathrow, or another London airport, for the new service it plans to launch in 2021.

Norwegian’s UK-based subsidiary currently flies between Gatwick and 13 destinations in the Americas, according to Cirium schedule data. Destinations include Denver (DEN), New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) and Orlando (MCO) in the U.S., as well as Buenos Aires (EZE) and Rio de Janeiro (GIG) in Argentina and Brazil, respectively.

Related: Norwegian Air drops U.S. flights from Copenhagen and Stockholm

The Norwegian Air UK route map in June 2020. (Image by Cirium)
The Norwegian Air UK route map in June 2020. (Image by Cirium)

A recent cull in Norwegian’s various trans-Atlantic services could free some aircraft for new flights from Heathrow. The airline is ending all of its long-haul flying from Copenhagen (CPH) and Stockholm (ARN) next spring, and opted to leave Las Vegas (LAS) earlier this year.

However, Norwegian said issues with the Rolls-Royce engines on its Boeing 787 jets continue to be an issue, potentially limiting further growth with the current fleet of 37 Dreamliners. The airline expects four 787-9 deliveries in 2020, its latest investor presentation shows.

Norwegian’s capacity to the U.S. is scheduled to decrease nearly 12% year-over-year during the first nine months of 2020, according to Cirium data.

Featured image by Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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