Norwegian Air Shuttle AS is considering using narrow-body Boeing Co. 737 Max jets on direct links between smaller European cities and destinations in China, the U.S. and Caribbean, its chief executive officer said.
New routes that extend beyond Europe will be among the first under consideration when the carrier begins taking delivery of the Max starting in 2017, CEO Bjoern Kjos said in an interview at Gatwick Airport today.
“There are a lot of routes that we will serve in the future that are served via a hub-and-spoke system today that we will serve with direct flights,” Kjos said. “It’s highly likely that’s one of the first things we’ll be looking at” for the Max, he said. “You could even serve western China, there are lots of big cities you could serve out of Europe.”
Norwegian Air for now fulfils its long-haul ambitions using the all-composite Boeing 787 Dreamliner in a bid to turn a profit on trans-Atlantic trips where no-frills carriers such as Laker Airways have failed. The Dreamliner remains central to the carrier’s ambitions, with destinations like Hawaii, Japan and South Africa all under consideration, according to Kjos.
“There are endless possibilities for a route structure,” the executive said, adding that cities like Boston would be better served by direct narrow-body connections to cities like Stockholm and Edinburgh in Scotland.
According to Boeing, the 737 MAX will extend the range of the 737 NG model by between 750 kilometers (466 miles) and 1,075 kilometers to more than 6,667 kilometers. That puts it well within reach to serve Boston from Oslo, for example.
Norwegian Air began long-haul flights using the 787 out of Scandinavia in May 2013 and added connections from London Gatwick to New York, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale earlier this year. The company has faced resistance from U.S. pilots and is still awaiting approval from U.S. authorities for a foreign- carrier permit for its Irish-registered subsidiary.
The U.S. is in breach of the Open Skies agreement, a 2007 accord that removed barriers on trans-Atlantic flights, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, citing an unidentified European Commission official. Both sides will re-visit the issue at a meeting next month, the newspaper said.
“We fulfill every requirement under the Open-sky treaty,” Kjos said. “I take it for granted that the European Union will actually put pressure and put this in order.”
Norwegian Air is embarking on one of the industry’s most ambitious growth plans as it rolls out long-haul flights while swelling its European fleet with 222 mainly re-engined Boeing 737s and Airbus Group NV A320s arriving from 2016.
The Scandinavian carrier will have 17 Dreamliners by 2018, comprising eight 787-8s seating 259 people in coach and 32 in premium economy, together with nine 787-9s that have a longer range and can carry 20 percent more passengers.
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