Norwegian Airlines is once again launching its winter service between North America and the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. And this time around Canada is part of the plans. The airline will launch seasonal service from Montréal to the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in late October. Additionally, Norwegian will launch the only transatlantic flight out of Hamilton International Airport near Toronto, in March 2019, with daily service to Dublin, Ireland. The airline also announced a new four-weekly service from both Guadeloupe and Martinique to Cayenne in French Guiana.
We are very excited about entering the Canadian market, and provide Canadians with Norwegian’s combination of affordable low fares and award-winning service, whether they are heading to the Caribbean or Europe. This is only our first step into Canada and as the world’s fastest-growing airline, we look forward to expanding our presence here in the next few years. – Thomas Ramdahl, Norwegian’s Chief Commercial Officer
Seasonal Island Service
The addition of Montreal comes online in the fourth year of the seasonal islands service. The carrier claims growing passenger counts and flight frequencies year-over-year and selectively adding new destinations helps further that expansion. Martinique and Guadeloupe historically saw minimal direct traffic from North America. The arrival of Norwegian, even with less than daily frequencies, helped induce some demand with lower fares. In the case of the Canadian service Air Canada‘s Rouge operation already serves the markets. Competition makes it slightly harder for Norwegian to claim market share but also means that Montreal-based passengers are more familiar with the destinations already.
For the flights between Martinique/Guadeloupe and Cayenne, French Guiana the competition comes from Air France. While the Norwegian service is less frequent the fares are almost certain to be lower. Norwegian also brings nonstop service from Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe; the Air France flights all connect in Martinique Aimé Césaire International Airport at Fort-de-France.
In all cases the new service presents an opportunity to drop fares and increase passenger volume. The increased tourism arrivals should be good news for the islands. Unlike some other Caribbean markets the new flights should also be neutral to positive for the local carriers. Few passengers are connecting in to these destinations via other Caribbean airports. And there is increased potential for island-hopping once in the region (e.g. splitting time between Guadeloupe and Martinique on a single trip). That “hop” would bring additional traffic to the local market.
The islands service will operate with Norwegian’s 737-800 fleet, taking advantage of reduced demand in Europe during the winter season. Keeping the planes flying and generating revenue is important, especially for a fleet as young as Norwegian’s.
The launch of year-round service between Hamilton and Dublin brings the smaller, secondary Toronto airport into the Transatlantic market. Such markets are part of Norwegian’s game plan for its 737 MAX fleet. Not all of the markets proved successful in the Summer 2017 efforts to the Northeastern United States but the carrier is trying.
Of course, the overall financial viability of Norwegian remains in question. The company still is not producing profits and fuel prices continue to rise. It will be unable to match last year’s prices and still hold any hope of a positive economic outcome, even with the more fuel efficient 737 MAX fleet. And if prices rise that hurts loads. Losing a little bit on every passenger but making it up in volume rarely is a successful business model in the long run. Going after these specific secondary markets and overflying hubs can be good news for passengers and airlines alike.