Norwegian has had a rough time when it comes to aircraft. Their 787s and 737 MAX are plagued with issues that keep a large number of them grounded. This puts a strain on their operations. As a result, Shannon and Cork will not receive Norwegian flights to and from the United States due to a lack of available aircraft.
Cancellation of flights
The Irish Independent reports that Norwegian will not offer nonstop flights from Cork or Shannon to the United States this year. Norwegian operated 737 MAX aircraft on these routes during the peak summer season in 2018. Once winter came, Norwegian redeploys those aircraft on other, more profitable winter routes.
However, with the 737 MAX out of service due to a worldwide grounding, Norwegian is running short of planes. Simply put, they cannot justify either chartering, leasing or diverting precious aircraft to these thin transatlantic routes. The 787 is far too big for these routes and, with Norwegian’s 787 engine issues, they don’t have planes to spare to operate these routes on a semi-frequent basis.
Norwegian’s 737 MAX
Boeing 737-800, 737 MAX 8, and 787 aircraft are painted in Norwegian livery. With a streamlined fleet, Norwegian can reduce pilot and maintenance costs. In addition, it makes it easier for last-minute aircraft swaps in case of unforeseen circumstances.
On the other hand, a streamlined fleet also means that a fleet-wide problem can be incredibly damaging to an airline’s operations. This is exactly what has happened with Norwegian. Though they operate many routes, Norwegian does not have a fleet the size of Air Canada’s or American Airlines.
As Air Canada and American Airlines (despite operating hundreds of aircraft) continue to feel the crunch of out-of-service 737 MAX, then it is clear that a carrier like Norwegian would experience the same difficulties on a much larger scale. Indeed, the 737 MAX comprises a significantly large proportion of Norwegian’s fleet compared to American or Air Canada.
On the inside, Norwegian’s 737s are configured in a dense all-economy configuration. The 737 MAX are equipped with 189 seats. Compared to the likes of 291-seater 787-8 and 344-seater 787-9, both operating with Premium Economy, the 787 family is simply too large to operate routes like these.
Airports feel the crunch
Airlines aren’t the only ones feeling the crunch of the 737 MAX grounding. Airports are starting to see lost capacity from once-frequented routes. Shannon Airport reports that they expect to lose around 120,000 seats due to the MAX groundings. And, while other carriers operate seasonal flights, the lack of additional competition means some passengers can expect to pay higher fares for the same route.
The 737 MAX grounding continues. As regulatory agencies and Boeing work to find a solution to flaws with the 737 MAX, airlines, airports, and passengers alike are waiting for these planes to return to the skies. With more aircraft come more routes and more passengers.
For now, however, the only thing to do is wait and watch. Some expect the aircraft to fly by July while others are anticipating a return to service much later in the year. In the meantime, Shannon and Cork are just a little more difficult to visit this summer.
What do you think about this situation? Are you affected by Norwegian’s route suspensions this summer? Let us know in the comments!