In the last five years, we’ve entered a new age in air travel. The rise of the long-haul low-cost carrier (LLC) has changed the way we travel. At the same time, the once big-name luxury brands are going cheap. Europe to Asia low-cost carriers are now dominating the European market, with Norwegian flights to Asia the new norm. So why is this happening and who’s going to benefit most?
Low-cost carriers have been shaking up travel for some time now
Three LCC names will likely enter the Europe-Asia air travel market over the next two years. WOW air, the Icelandic offering, is currently receiving four new Airbus A330neo. These could easily fly non-stop to the US, but it’s more likely they’ll be aiming East to India and south-east Asia. But besides this, they’re planning a Reykjavik to Delhi route from December 2018.
AirAsia X, Asia’s biggest LLC is already flying Kuala Lumpur to Sydney with their Airbus A330s, which at over eight hours long, fit the long haul description. In addition, they’re looking at launching services from Thailand to Eastern Europe in 2019.
Lion, the LLC out of Thailand is making its entry into the medium-to-long-haul LCC market. With its first three wide-body jets, the Thai airline, Lion aims to open up a Thailand to Shanghai route. It has also applied for a route to Beijing. Lion Air has also announced its intention is to launch services to Western Europe in 2020.
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows on the Asian routes
By taking advantage of their geographical location, the Gulf carriers grew rapidly after 2005. They built hubs connecting Asia with Europe and North America. Qatar Airways launched a direct flight to Chiang Mai, in 2017 and added Pattaya in 2018. But stakes in other airlines, have been their downfall and stunted the market growth here.
Hedging your bets and cross investing
The Gulf States have always put money in Europe and London believing it to be more stable. But in 2017, when Air Berlin and Alitalia landed in the drink, their partners Etihad were dragged down too and forced to reduce their reach. And while LCCs only account for 2% of Asia-Europe air travel market capacity capturing even 5% more would be a great thing for both the airlines and their customers.
Looking for new Asia-Europe low-cost flights?
With this gap in the market, Europe to Asia low-cost carriers is keen to get a foothold. And unsurprisingly, it’s the plucky Vikings who are moving first. Norwegian flights to Asia started with a traditional destination such as Singapore back in 2017. Their non-stop 12 hour 45 minute flight from Gatwick to Changi Airport was selling for as low as $150 one way. Needless to say it thrilled customers and upset rivals.
This is because not only are Norwegian now the LLC of choice in their own land, but the carrier is spreading its wings over the UK and Sweden too. They’re applied for a Swedish AOC in order to set up a new hub in Gothenburg-Landvetter. The airport gives them not just access to the Swedes, but a better route down into Asia too.
From the end of October, Norwegian is planning to fly six times a week from Stockholm to the Thai holiday destination of Krabi. They’ll also be adding Oslo-Krabi and Copenhagen-Krabi to the schedule later in the year.
This is the perfect growth opportunity for the much lover carrier as Krabi is already a popular winter destination for Norwegians with many taking on second homes in the area. At the same time, for this reason, the pressure is really on them to keep the route up once it starts. But don’t worry, we’re sure plenty of other LLCs would be more than happy to take over if anything goes wrong.