It is no secret that even with limited influence that I have been campaigning in the background to persuade Norwegian Air to operate flights out of Ireland or Scandinavia to Barbados, even possibly including St. Lucia in a triangle route.
Why Norwegian? Well that’s simple!
They are a dynamic, rapidly growing low cost carrier who already have suitable aircraft to fly into the Caribbean. After their latest delivery, they now have ten B787 ‘Dreamliner’ aircraft and by 2020 plan to increase that number to 19. Scandinavian used to be such a larger visitor market for us, but sadly the numbers have fallen off and certainly there is room for restoring market share.
In our favour is the cost of living in Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, meaning that we are not perceived as a high cost destination through their eyes. Prolonged winters also give us a bigger window of opportunity. The long haul division of the airline is now based in the Republic of Ireland, a domicile within the current European Union, which Norway is not a member, giving the carrier certain fifth freedom rights to operate to the Americas.
Despite this, just about every delaying tactic has been put in their way from the United States side and it has taken over two years to finally obtain provisional traffic rights from Ireland’s southern airport, Cork, to Boston and New York. US legacy carriers have lobbied relentlessly to deny access to the airline, citing that as a non-union operation they would hire mostly Far Eastern lower paid air crew. In reality and according to the Norwegian Air’s website, they actually employ over 400 US based aircrew even before Boston and New becomes operational, which is more than any other foreign carrier in the United States.
To say that Norwegian Air has been successful and spreading anxiety amongst the long established legacy carriers perhaps is the biggest understatement in present aviation discussion. Last year, Norwegian Air carried 26 million passengers, which as a point of interest, is five times more than the population of Norway. And at an average load factor of 86 percent, which must be the envy of almost every airline on the planet.
I am confident that we will eventually get a direct service both from Ireland and Scandinavia, but in the interim is there any more we can do?
Actually yes! Norwegian Air currently operates nonstop or one stop services from Helsinki, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo into Fort Lauderdale and jetBlue recently started their daily nonstop from Fort Lauderdale to Barbados. A seamless code sharing link between the two airlines just could be a marriage that is made-in-heaven. Under existing European laws, Norwegian already flies from Boston, Baltimore and New York into Guadeloupe and Martinique at fares of one way US$49 upwards. This has dramatically opened up affordable travel between the US Eastern Seaboard to the French Islands. As the FWI are French departments, there is little or nothing that the US carriers can object to.