Norwegian Air heads for the Caribbean

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It may seem odd to fly on a Norwegian Air jet between Boston and Martinique, but that’s one of the new routes that Norway’s tireless airline entrepreneur Bjørn Kjos aims to start offering North American passengers. Undaunted by a recent pilots’ strike, a new rash of trouble on its long-haul service and regulatory uncertainty, Kjos is determined to keep launching more new routes far from his airline’s home base.

Norwegian Air chief executive Bjørn Kjos says the airline will register its new aircraft in Ireland, in order to be able to hire Asian crews at Asian pay levels that will allow Norwegian to compete with Asian carriers. PHOTO: Norwegian Air

Norwegian Air founder and chief executive Bjørn Kjos is moving forward with new routes, now from the US’ East Coast to the Caribbean. PHOTO: Norwegian Air

Some of them seem to be in the most unlikely of places. Martinique and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean are far from Norwegian Air’s roots in Norway but that’s where Kjos sees potential for growth and profits. He’s moving ahead with plans to open new direct routes in December, albeit on a four-month trial basis, from the US’ East Coast to various islands in the Caribbean, conveniently just as their winter tourism season gets underway.

Kjos spoke enthusiastically to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) about Boston as a new hub for the airline that features prominent Norwegians on the tails of its aircraft. He told NRK that Norwegian wants to also fly more new routes between Boston’s Logan International Airport (BOS) and the airline’s European destinations, also to and from Baltimore/Washington’s Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).

But first he’s rolling out flights from both Boston and Baltimore/Washington to Martinique and Guadaloupe in the French portion of the Caribbean. The two islands popular with sun-starved tourists were not chosen randomly. Since both are French territory, they are considered part of the European Union (EU) and their currency is the euro. As newspaper Aftenposten reported on Friday, Norwegian Air claims it can thus legally serve them through its traffic rights as a company registered in the EU’s economic area.

Norwegian Air plans to use three of its new long-distance 737-800 aircraft on the routes from Boston to Martinique and Guadeloupe. PHOTO: Norwegian Air

Norwegian Air plans to use three of its new long-distance 737-800 aircraft on the routes from Boston to Martinique and Guadeloupe. PHOTO: Norwegian Air

“Our plans for the US will continue to unfold, both with new routes and establishment of more American bases,” Kjos announced. The US East Coast bases will come in addition to those now at JFK airport in New York and in Fort Lauderdale.

Norwegian Air spokesman Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen said the new routes can be the start of a major new operation from the US. “We’re looking at a string of new route possibilities from the US, not just to the Caribbean, but also towards the European market,” Sandaker-Nielsen told Aftenposten. “We’re already offering new routes from Europe to the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico and St Croix in the US Virgin Islands.”

Norwegian is earmarking three of its new Boeing 737-800 aircraft which are due to roll out soon from Boeing in Seattle. They can fly relatively long distances and Aftenposten reported that one of the aircraft will be held in reserve, to minimize any problems that might arise if the new jets have technical trouble like Norwegian’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners have had. Kjos claimed earlier this month that he’d learned from his airline’s mistakes, and the cancellations and delays caused by the Dreamliners’ lack of reliability during the launch of Norwegian’s won’t be repeated during the launch of Caribbean service.

Norwegian Air passengers on its long-haul service between Oakland, California and Scandinavia have recently suffered such delays and cancellations, though, while the pilots’ strike last winter disrupted Norwegian’s service within Europe. Kjos has apologized for that and is now barging ahead with his expansion plans aimed at turning his just-over-10-year-old carrier into a global player.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

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