Norwegian closes in on 10 million annual passengers; London Gatwick is leading non-Scandinavian airport

Image: Norwegian Posh & Becks
As the airline becomes increasingly pan-European – the new Gatwick services make it Norwegian’s busiest airport outside of Scandinavia – anna.aero strongly advocates that Norwegian should introduce tail fins regaled with the image of Britain’s beloved royal family.

Norwegian Air Shuttle was founded as far back as 1993 and for many years existed as a regional airline operating a small fleet of Fokker 50s on behalf of Braathens. When Braathens and SAS merged in 2002 the airline’s management decided to establish a low-cost airline in the Norwegian domestic market using 737s. After five years of organic growth the airline acquired Finnair-owned, Stockholm-based FlyNordic in 2007. In 2008 FlyNordic, which operated a mix of MD82/MD83s was re-branded as Norwegian.se.

By the end of 2008 the combined airlines had transported over nine million passengers in the previous year and with continued growth in 2009 the airline carried 9.83 million passengers in the 12-month period ended July.

Chart: Norwegian traffic 2002-2008 (Annual passengers (millions))
Source: Norwegian

Unlike most other European LCCs whose networks are dominated by international routes which have high potential for stimulation with low fares, Norwegian’s network remained totally domestic until April 2003 and international traffic only accounted for more than 15% of the airline’s passenger numbers from April 2004. At the beginning of August Norwegian was operating scheduled services to some 75 airports in 25 countries with new routes to Ireland (Dublin) and Austria (Vienna) beginning this week.

Image: Norwegian took delivery of the 6000th 737 – a 737-800 – in April
Norwegian took delivery of the 6000th 737 – a 737-800 – in April. By 2014, the airline will have replaced its fleet of 737-300s and MD80s with 58 737-800s.

Bases in several countries

With a fleet of over 40 737s and several MD80s the airline is operating over 160 routes this summer from several bases across Northern Europe with an average frequency of just over five weekly flights. Out of a total of 1,743 weekly departures (Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 3 August 2009), 964 are from Norwegian airports (55%). Sweden (166 departures mostly from its Stockholm Arlanda base) and Denmark (139 departures most from its Copenhagen base) are the next biggest country markets for the airline. When Copenhagen-based Sterling folded last year Norwegian was one of several airlines to seize the opportunity of establishing a bigger presence in the Danish capital.

After that, Spain, UK, Poland and France are the next biggest country markets for Norwegian. In July 2006 the airline set up a base in Poland at Warsaw Okecie airport. Destinations served from Warsaw have come and gone somewhat erratically but this summer Norwegian is still operating to a dozen destinations from the Polish capital.

Image: New Norwegian Copenhagen-Gatwick service was launched in April
London Gatwick is Norwegian’s leading non-Scandinavian airport, ranking seventh overall in terms of departures. A new Copenhagen-Gatwick service was launched in April.

London Gatwick is leading non-Scandinavian airport

Not surprisingly Oslo is by far the airline’s busiest airport with around 500 weekly departures this summer. Norwegian airports hold seven of the top 10 places when ranked by departures with only London Gatwick (ranked seventh) located outside of Scandinavia.

Chart: Norwegian top 12 airports (Weekly departures)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 3 August 2009

The next busiest non-Scandinavian airports are Warsaw, Malaga, Alicante, Nice and Paris Orly. European countries currently not served by the airline include Belgium, Finland, Luxembourg and Romania.

High frequency domestic routes against SAS

In the Norwegian domestic market, Norwegian operates multiple daily flights from Oslo to Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim. This summer it operates a total of 19 domestic routes which account for around one-third of the airline’s capacity. Market stimulation has been relatively modest by low-cost standards with Norwegian primarily gaining market share at SAS’ expense.


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