Norwegian Air finds new ‘dream’ partner

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After flying for years outside the world’s airline’s alliances, Norwegian Air has found a new partner that will make it easier to travel in the US. Its plan to team up with US airline JetBlue can streamline connections for Norwegian passengers in North America, and vice versa for JetBlue passengers heading abroad.

Passengers arriving at JFK on one of Norwegian’s Dreamliner jets may soon, for example, connect to JetBlue for onward travel in North America. PHOTO: Norwegian Air

“This cooperation will give travelers even more travel choices,” stated Geir Karlsen, acting chief executive of Norwegian since founder Bjørn Kjos semi-retired. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) wrote that Norwegian may finally have found a “dream partner” for intercontinental passengers flying on its Dreamliner jets.

The news was well-received by investors in the turbulent Norwegian, which has lurched from challenge to challenge during the past few years. Karlsen noted that JetBlue is the largest airline at several of Norwegian’s biggest US bases, including New York and Fort Lauderdale, “which can give our customers and JetBlue’s customers access til a large route network on both sides of the Atlantic.”

‘Team effort’
Kjos was given credit for taking on the role of “special adviser” with a goal of finding long-term partners for the airline. Earlier attempts to find airline partners in Asia haven’t panned out, but now Norwegian has signed a letter of intent to cooperate with JetBlue.

DN reported that Kjos was involved in the negotiating with JetBlue, also when he was still CEO, but sources within Norwegian told DN that Norwegian staffers in several departments have played central roles in landing the deal in recent months.

“The international agreement is something management has mentioned in several contexts and worked on for quite a while,” Norwegian spokesman Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen told DN. “There are many who’ve contributed, it’s been a team effort.”

More partnerships
JetBlue is the US’ sixth-largest airline, based near the JFK airport outside New York City. It’s listed on the New York Stock Exchange and was founded in 1998 as a cut-rate carrier. It later has evolved into a hybrid of sorts between a low-fare- and classic airline, with 255 aircraft flying to just over 100 destinations in the US and the rest of North- and Central America. JetBlue also has partnerships with several other airlines including Lufthansa, Aer Lingus, TAP Air Portugal and Turkish Airlines in Europe.

Norwegian also cooperates with Easyjet, which feeds traffic to Norwegian’s long-haul routes. Kjos himself had mentioned JetBlue on earlier occasions as a new possible partner, and he hasn’t given up the hunt for regional partners in Asia.

“JetBlue has a strong domestic route network from JFK,”  airline analyst Andrew Lobbenberg at HSBC in London told DN. Other analysts saw lots of synergy between JetBlue and Norwegian, and Danske Bank issued a “buy” recommendation on Norwegian stock. Berglund