Norwegian Scraps London-Singapore Flights After Just 18 Months

One of my biggest pet peeves is airlines cutting routes – especially when they are the only provider. This comes second only to the crime of the century in airline terms – cancelling an already booked-up route for ‘commercial reasons’. But sadly this week news of the Norwegian to Singapore cancelled flights out of Gatwick dropped. And this is exactly what Norwegian  is doing. From Jan 12th 2019 the flight will be obsolete. Passengers booked on these services have been offered a refund, date change, or the option to fly to another Norwegian destination. Meaning they will be left scrambling, competing with each other to book on other carriers. And you can bet your shirt, the prices of those remaining seats will spike due to demand. Even worst, this route has only just launched. So what’s happening at Norwegian to make it launch and dump a route so quickly?

Why is the Gatwick to Singapore Norwegian flight being cancelled?

I say this every time but, Norwegian is expanding massively – some might say (Ryanair does) too quickly. The Gatwick to Singapore Norwegian flight launched just last year to a fanfare. At around 12 hours and 45 minutes long, and covering 10,885 kilometers, the new route was the longest LCC route in the world. The brand new B787-9 Dreamliner was the perfect aircraft for the job. And with a four-times-per-week schedule, it was a very efficient use of the aircraft. Fares were dirt-cheap too – selling sometimes as low as £149.90 (US$201.50) one way. And despite being a budget carrier, the flight had a premium cabin with 46 inches of legroom, complimentary drinks before take off, pre-dinner drinks, plus dinner and breakfast. It was a good product and well received.

Can I still book Norwegian Singapore flights?

You can, but I wouldn’t risk it. Norwegian has announced it will discontinue the Gatwick – Singapore route from January 12th, 2019. And who knows, there may be earlier commercially driven cancelations prior to this date. This is because the reason given for the cancellation of the route is “network adjustments”. Essentially, the aircraft on the route will make more money if used on a different route.

So where’s the plane going instead?

So here’s a bit of a head scratcher. Norwegian says it intends to use the plane elsewhere, but at the same time news has emerged of a sell-off. Norwegian has begun negotiations to sell 90 Airbus A320neo aircraft which it has on order. These machines aren’t even built yet. It’s a serious case of eyes-bigger-than stomach. Norwegian committed to buy the 210 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus but things have changed. Norwegian is in debt and needs to unload the obligation to pay out for almost half the aircraft in the order book.

However, the airline also has 30 Airbus 321LR on ordered in the same package as the A320neos and it is looking to retain these. And why? Well, as always, despite their troubles, Norwegian is optimistic and still growth and expansion focused. The airline has announced it will commence domestic operations within Argentina from next month. The flights will be operated by their Norwegian Air Argentina subsidiary from a new hub in Buenos Aires (AEP). So it’s keeping the Airbus 321LRs with this route in mind. Depending on traffic development in Argentina, they could be put to good use.