Do you put the milk in first, or after the tea? The debate raged for 10 minutes between Laase Sandaker-Nielsen, Communications Manager, Norwegian (left); Bjørn Kjos, CEO, Norwegian (centre); and anna.aero's Amy Hanna (right). English-Irish, Hanna won (milk after the tea of course). "You tea drinkers may have invented a lot of rules, but it hasn't been a barrier to us entering your markets," said the Norwegian CEO, switching to black coffee.
You've been going around making claims that Norwegian will become the world’s first truly global airline, without any geographical division. How is the airline accomplishing this goal, and can you please provide some information on the latest developments in its low-cost, long-haul offering?
We aim to accomplish the goal of becoming the world’s first truly global airline by taking delivery of brand new aircraft and offering innovative service, competitive fares and industry-leading products to our customers. Our philosophy is that everyone should be able to afford to fly. While traditional airlines grow outside their home markets by entering into joint ventures, co-operations or alliances — and let their locally based alliance partners fly their customers — we fly our customers ourselves to their destination. You already see the outlines of a global presence through our crew bases in Thailand and the US.
Our long-haul routes have been very well received so far with practically full flights. We currently offer long-haul flights between Bangkok and Scandinavia, as well as between US destinations like New York, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orlando and Scandinavia. We’re also looking forward to flying long-haul from London Gatwick this summer. There’s great demand for high-quality flights at a low fare between the UK and the US, particularly to and from London Gatwick, where no other airline currently offers these routes. By launching long-haul routes between the UK and the US, we also get a stronger foothold in markets outside Scandinavia, which is a part of our strategy to expand internationally.
What have been the challenges of promoting a region-specific brand (Norwegian) in traffic-generating markets like the UK, and this year in Germany, in Spain? How much assistance does the airline receive from the airports, and what ways does the airline have of getting its message out to potential UK and German travellers wanting to go to Spain?
That's a long list. I'll try my best. Once again, we believe that our low prices, vast route network and brand new aircraft speak for themselves and that this is what makes customers choose to fly with Norwegian. At the same time, it’s important to have a good relationship with the airports we fly to and from. Having a close relationship with the airports means that we can offer passengers an even better product; we’re committed to being forward-thinking and innovative with our services and this is evident at many of the airports we work with.
What developments are we looking out for in 2014? Will we be seeing the establishment of any new bases for example?
We have many plans in the pipeline this year with the delivery of many new aircraft. A total of 14 brand new 737-800 will be delivered in 2014 as well as four 787s by end Q2.
Norwegian will continue to expand and open up new bases around the world. The first half of 2014 will see the opening of several bases in the US and in Spain – this is just the beginning. The bases are and will be located where Norwegian either has several routes in operation or plans to open more routes.
"There's a lot of cups building up here. So you like Earl Grey, do put milk in that?"