Norwegian Swaps Oakland For San Francisco

While we already saw Norwegian shift some flights from Oakland to San Francisco earlier this year, the low-cost carrier is now going ‘all-in’ with San Francisco International and leaving Oakland. According to SFGate, Oakland International Airport is now left with only one transatlantic service: A SATA flight to Terceira in the autonomous Azores archipelago region of Portugal.

Norwegian 787 at LAS
Norwegian’s long-haul fleet is exclusively Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Photo: Tomás Del Coro / Wikimedia Commons

Oakland in decline?

With Norwegian leaving the ‘secondary airport’, Oakland is now left with international flights to the Azores, Canada, and Mexico. During the summer of 2018, the picture was quite different, with Norwegian flying services to Barcelona, London Gatwick, and Paris CDG. In fact, it ranked as California’s third-largest gateway to Europe with roughly 3,000 transatlantic passengers a day at the height of the season.

In fact, the airport invested some US$45 million in 2017 on its newly renovated international terminal according to Business Traveller. Before the renovation, the terminal could previously, only accommodate a single wide-body aircraft with no more than 300 passengers. Renovations added more visitor processing and passport control stations, as well as a number of new baggage carousels.

Speaking with SFGate, a Port of Oakland official had the following to say:

“While we’re incredibly disappointed by the loss of an airline with which we share a close partnership, we reflect on the undeniable success we’ve experienced in establishing OAK as a large U.S. to Europe gateway and we have worked tirelessly to promote Norwegian’s service and to make it a household name here in the Bay Area,” -Bryant L. Francis, Port of Oakland Director of Aviation

The lure of SFO

San Francisco International is the 2nd busiest airport in California behind Los Angeles. Photo: United Airlines

According to One Mile at a Time, the summer of 2020 will see Norwegian fly from San Francisco to Barcelona, London, Oslo, Paris, and Rome. Last year, British Airways also canceled its own service to Oakland and fellow IAG airline LEVEL followed suit as well. What’s going on?

According to Norwegian, there are a number of factors: search engine visibility, cargo, premium class travelers. We reached out to Norwegian who provided us with this statement:

“While we have been very pleased with Oakland International Airport and their tremendous help to put Norwegian on the map in the Bay Area, we do see bigger returns operating out of San Francisco International Airport, especially on more business-driven routes like London, Paris and Barcelona.

With SFO, our flights appear more visibly in search engines, and are more appealing to business travelers who enjoy our Premium cabin, as well as it provides us with greater cargo opportunities. By moving our London service from OAK to SFO at the end of March this year, we’ve seen greater return and higher yields, especially in our Premium cabin. We are very pleased with how SFO-London has been performing in a relatively short period, which was followed by similar results for Barcelona and Paris once we moved those routes to SFO at the end of October.”


Norwegian’s reasoning makes complete sense and this will hopefully propel them more quickly towards profitability. With the extra capacity Oakland now has, hopefully, it can attract other airlines to its facilities. Maybe it needs to change its name to “San Francisco-Oakland” similar to “London Stansted”? That might at least help with internet visibility…

If you have ever flown to Oakland, how was your airport experience? Do you agree with Norwegian’s move? Let us know in the comments!

Norwegian hopes for greater profitability at SFO. Photo: Norwegian