Norwegian, Europe’s third-largest budget carrier, is expected to be granted a full UK operating licence next week to allow the expansion of low-cost long-haul routes.
The agreement, which is to be signed off by the Civil Aviation Authority, will give the airline access to countries with a bilateral traffic pact with the British government, according to a newspaper report this morning.
Norwegian’s UK subsidiary will be based at Gatwick from where it already runs a series of European and transatlantic services.
The airline’s chief executive, Bjørn Kjos, said that the move would enable Norwegian to offer cheap flights to new long-haul destinations, including India, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil, planned for 2017.
He told the Times: “Securing a UK operating licence will be an important step to get a stronger foothold in the UK as we plan for further expansion, new routes and new jobs.”
There would be a particular focus on India because of the country’s improving economy, rising population and family links to Britain.
“When the salaries come up in India you will see a huge flow of tourists or people visiting friends and relatives in the UK,” said Kjos. “You are talking about almost 1.5 billion people and you will see great flows of passengers very soon.”
The airline would initially target routes to Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta. Flights could arrive into both Gatwick and Birmingham in the future, he said.
Kjos added that other destinations opening up to the UK would include South Africa.
“There are great opportunities,” he said. “Durban isn’t even served. You just have extremely high fares into Johannesburg and Cape Town. That’s it. We will change that.”
Norwegian is acquiring 19 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners on top of 11 already on order. Its long-haul fleet will increase from eight to 38 aircraft within five years. It has also ordered 100 Boeing 737MAX aircraft, which have a much longer range than the existing 737.
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