Norwegian cuts long-haul routes for second time

Norwegian Air Shuttle is cutting long-haul routes to the United States and Thailand from Denmark and Sweden. The low-cost carrier, currently working on restoring profitability, claims the demand is low on the routes and that Rolls-Royce engine problems affecting its Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet have also played a role in making the decision. This is the second Norwegian’s long-haul network trim announced in recent months. 

After thoroughly evaluating global long-distance network, Norwegian is discontinuing routes from Copenhagen and Stockholm to the USA and Thailand, the airline announced on November 27, 2019. The changes do not affect short haul routes from Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen. 

“Based on demand in the various markets combined with the operational challenges with the Rolls Royce engines on the company’s Dreamliners, Norwegian long-haul flights from Stockholm and Copenhagen will be discontinued from March 29, 2020,” a company’s statement reads. 

Norwegian’s misery with Rolls-Royce engines 

Nowegian’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners were affected by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines in 2018. In late December of the same year, the airline managed to achieve an agreement with Rolls-Royce for compensation. The engine manufacturer has reportedly agreed to pay up around €100 million for the technical challenges the low cost carrier had faced.

Earlier in the month, the airline had assured its investors that Rolls-Royce engine problems, affecting its Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet, are left behind. “The Company has experienced several issues with its engines on the Boeing 787. The Company is expecting these issues to be resolved and compensated by Rolls Royce in full or in part,” is outlined in the airline’s presentation dated November 5, 2019. 

“However, there is no guarantee that future problems may not arise on the 787 engine and similar issues will have a material impact on the Company’s operation,” was the warning written in the same presentation. 

And impact the company’s operation it did. The current decision to cut routes is stems from the past Dreamliner groundings, according to Matthew Wood, Norwegian’s Senior Vice President Commercial, who is cited in the statement.

“For a long time, we have had challenges with the Rolls Royce engines on our long-haul flights, which means we need to have more aircraft on the ground,” Wood explained. “This affects the route program […]”. 

What’s left of Norwegian network

“[…] we see that the long-distance market to and from Scandinavia is small, compared to large cities such as New York, London, Los Angeles, Paris and Rome,” according to Wood. “Scandinavia is not large enough to maintain intercontinental flights from Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen.”

Cutting flights to the United States from two Nordic capitals, Norwegian will continue flights to the destination from Oslo (Norway). Claiming the U.S. flights have high demand in other European cities, namely London, Barcelona and Paris, Norwegian will continue to operate  50 routes between Europe and the United States. The airline is the largest foreign airline in New York, in its own words. 

As for flights to Thailand, the situation is less clear. The Oslo-Bangkok route would not be continued until the summer of 2020, while Oslo to Krabi and Oslo to Bangkok “are still being considered” for the following winter schedule (starting October 2020 and ending in March 2021). 

In September 2019, Norwegian made a similar move when it cut six routes from Ireland, notably  Dublin, Cork and Shannon, to the U.S. and Canada. Calling the routes “no longer commercially viable”, in a statement issued in August 2019, the airline stated that the decision was heavily influenced by problems with aircraft. At that time, it was the Boeing 737 MAX which was put under fire for ongoing groundings.


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