Many may remember Norwegian Airlines, a low-cost carrier that tried for several years to make low-cost long-haul travel work.
However, that experiment turned into an expensive failure as the airline ceased long-haul operations in 2019.
Time for a Revival
In the years after the airline's struggles, Norwegian entrepreneur Bjord Tore Larsen announced plans to start a new long-haul low-cost airline but this time, to execute it well. He chose the name to be Norse Atlantic Airways.
Larsen decided to leverage the 787s previously operated by Norwegian to launch his new airline. Based on market trends, he found New York, Miami, and Los Angeles as the most promising initial markets. He started nonstop flights to London in August 2022. These were the exact same bases that Norwegian had used in its failed attempt at the low-cost model long-haul, but Norse maintained that its model promised success.
The airline’s plans to start operating in late 2021 were pushed back to late 2022, but regardless, on June 14, 2022, Norse Atlantic Airways took to the skies for the first time out of Oslo, bound for New York’s JFK Airport.
Profits in Sight
Norse's route portfolio soon grew to 14 destinations in the span of less than a year and the fleet size grew to 10 aircraft. Although Norse was operating a similar schedule as Norwegian, it was turning a profit. How was this possible?
Norwegian had been using the low-cost carrier operating model for its services and had simply not modified the model enough to attract a large customer base on longer flights.
However, Norse made some key changes to the business model. Rather than allowing demand to reproduce when launching routes, Norse launched routes it knew had existing demand and was quick to modify its network when necessary to ensure every route was profitable.
Norse retained a “Custom-Made” mode where travelers could choose to add extras on top of the base fare, which the airline kept low enough to attract customers in large amounts.
Most importantly, Norse benefited from hiring permanent employees at its various destinations rather than contracting other companies based at the destination, something that Norwegian found caused operational headaches and higher costs.
Norse retains a simple fleet of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners equipped with the same seats and configuration that its predecessor used. The airline has premium economy seats arranged in a 2-3-2 layout with Economy seats being industry standard 3-3-3 for the Boeing 787.
Norse was also one of the only airlines to modify its schedule to accommodate for seasonality in travel demand. The airline therefore launched several routes specifically designed for leisure in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. Those routes commenced in the fall of 2023 and, as of the publication of this article, are proving reliable in terms of bringing in profit for Norse.
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