Norse Atlantic Airways, the Oslo (OSL))-based startup that plans low-fares transatlantic flights, has moved its launch back, citing high fuel prices.
Meanwhile, the carrier has also gained slots at London Gatwick (LGW), which will allow Norse to operate UK-US flights. The airline’s initial flights will be between Oslo and select US cities.
Norse had planned to open ticket sales this month, but said March 15 that sales will not start until April. Founder and CEO Bjørn Tore Larsen had previously said the startup’s first flight would be sometime in the 2022 second quarter. Now, the carrier said, its first scheduled service will not come until the end of the quarter, with a June launch now targeted.
Larsen said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has driven up already-high fuel prices, “creates uncertainties” for airlines, necessitating pushing back ticket sales and launch plans. Larsen said in a statement that the carrier will “take a careful approach to launch” given current market conditions.
He added: “We are in a unique position as we have not yet started flying, which gives us the advantage to enter the market cautiously in line with demand and quickly adapt to unforeseen events. A gradual approach where ramp-up is exclusively driven by demand will enable us to preserve our strong, debt-free balance sheet and cost base.”
Norse’s niche, Larsen has explained, will be operating low-fare transatlantic flights to mostly secondary US airports, including Fort Lauderdale (FLL)–where Norse’s main flight attendant base will be located–and New York Stewart (SWF). The carrier has indicated it will also operate to Ontario (ONT) outside Los Angeles.
While all initial flights will be between OSL and the US, Norse said it “plans to add other European destinations, such as Paris and London, as soon as the market situation allows.” To that end, Norse said it has secured “important slots at London Gatwick Airport,” adding: “The slots were awarded to Norse at no cost by the UK airport slots coordinator.”
Larsen has said the carrier is seeking a UK air operator’s certificate (AOC) so it can also fly transatlantic from LGW. Norse received its AOC from Norway’s civil aviation authority in December, allowing it to operate to/from any point in the European Union, and was cleared in January by the US Transportation Department to operate flights to US airports.
“We’re thrilled to have been awarded slots to operate flights to and from London Gatwick Airport as it gives us access to a very attractive market,” Larsen said.
The carrier’s specific “route network will be announced when ticket sales are launched,” Norse said
“We have the necessary flexibility to quickly adapt to unforeseen events and ramp up with more aircraft and affordable flights to exciting destinations as soon as the market situation allows,” Larsen said. “The current global situation makes it challenging to predict the demand for transatlantic travel. However, we strongly believe that the demand will bounce-back with full force because people will want to explore new destinations, visit friends and family and travel for business.”
Norse will operate an all-Boeing 787 fleet. It has leased 15 787s that formerly belonged to Norwegian Air Shuttle. Nine of those 787s have been delivered to Norse, but Larsen has said the carrier will operate just two to three 787s initially and gradually ramp up flying.