Founder of Norwegian, Bjørn Kjos, is eyeing taking another run at the low-cost long-haul market. In partnership with other investors and aviation industry personnel, he is seeking to launch Norse Atlantic Airways to fly from Europe to the Americas as soon as later this year. Could he do it right this time?
Norse Atlantic wants to fill Norwegian’s shoes
While we’re all lamenting the loss of the dirt-cheap transatlantic fares offered by Norwegian, its founder has turned his attention to another, strangely similar venture. Bjørn Kjos, the well-known founder of Norwegian, has joined forces with investor Bjørn Tore Larsen to launch Norse Atlantic Airways, a low-cost long-haul airline.
The new venture will look, at least on paper, very similar to the long-haul arm of Norwegian’s business. It will fly Boeing 787 Dreamliners from Europe to the Americas, although details are still sketchy on which routes it will target first.
Bjørn Tore Larsen, the company’s founder and CEO, stated in a report carried by Dagens Naeringsliv,
“We now have a historic opportunity to build a new airline from the start. When the world reopens, there will be a need for an innovative low-cost carrier in the intercontinental market. A company that focuses on more environmentally friendly aircraft with lower fuel consumption.
“We have industry knowledge and have secured modern Dreamliners on very good terms. Norse Atlantic Airways will give most people an opportunity to travel between the continents, without it costing too much.”
Also on the team is Bjørn H. Kise, a co-founder of Norwegian Air Shuttle, as it was, and a board member to a number of high profile Norwegian businesses. OSM Aviation manager and former pilot for SAS, Espen Høiby, has been appointed as the operations director for the new airline.
Reports suggest the airline could be ready to fly before the end of the year.
Will it work this time?
Bjørn Kjos is well known for growing Norwegian from a small, short-haul airline to the globally recognized carrier it is today. However, that growth was not without its pitfalls. The airline continues to struggle and has been fighting in court to alleviate its burden of debt and wriggle out of purchase contracts for new planes.
Not all of that was the fault of the airline, of course. Problems with the 787 Dreamliners saw it needing to wet lease capacity to cover the services it had in its schedule. Then, the grounding of the 737 MAX made it unable to use its new and more efficient aircraft, adding more problems to its already strained financial situation.
Some might say that designing an airline from the ground up for long-haul low-cost operations is more likely to succeed than attempting to tack on the service to a traditional short-haul airline. However, others have called into question the ability to operate low-cost long-haul as a profitable model at all.
Last November, Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary commented that,
“Ultimately long-haul is a different business. Short-haul is commoditized – as long as it’s safe and it’s punctual and it’s on time, it works. The lowest cost will win. Whereas long-haul is a different model and I don’t think long-haul, low-cost works.”
To date, no airline has made a resounding success of low-cost long-haul. And now, those who plan to try will focus on the cheaper to operate long-range narrowbody as their workhorse of choice. Going back to the Dreamliner model feels a lot like doing the same thing again and expecting a different result.
Nevertheless, there’s some solid aviation industry experience here, so perhaps everyone will be surprised and Norse Atlantic Airways will be able to succeed where so many others have failed.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.