Norwegian’s experiment flying single-aisle aircraft across the Atlantic is coming to an end. The carrier will shutter its six remaining routes connecting Ireland with North America effective 15 September 2019.
In a statement the carrier identified the 737 MAX grounding as a key factor in the decision to cut the routes:
We take a strict approach to route management and constantly evaluate route performance to ensure we meet customer demand. Compounded by the global grounding of the 737 MAX and the continued uncertainty of its return to service, this has led us to make the difficult decision to discontinue all six routes from Dublin, Cork and Shannon to the US and Canada from 15 September 2019.
Since March, we have tirelessly sought to minimise the impact on our customers by hiring (wetleasing) replacement aircraft to operate services between Ireland and North America. However, as the return to service date for the 737 MAX remains uncertain, this solution is unsustainable.– Matthew Robert Wood, Senior Vice President Commercial Long-Haul and New Markets, Norwegian.
Customers booked on affected flights have been contacted and offered the option of either being rerouted onto other Norwegian flights or a full refund. Customers from the U.S. can travel to Dublin via Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm.
These cuts come after flights from Bergen and Edinburgh to North America were previously cut after the 737 MAX grounding forced the airline to adjust its plans for the Summer 2019 season. With the Ireland flights dropping the carrier will no longer have operations at Providence, RI; Stewart, NY; or Hamilton, Ontario.
“From Growth to Profitability”
Norwegian continues to revamp its operations under the concept of a transition “from growth to profitability.” The carrier is also cutting some passenger benefits and trimming crew bases for the long-haul and short-haul operations to reduce costs. Norwegian’s fleet of 18 grounded 737 MAX aircraft were supposed to help the carrier reduce fuel costs and improve efficiency while expanding into underserved, smaller transatlantic markets. Not all of the early efforts were successful, leaving the carrier to shuffle some routes, even before the MAX grounding hit. But with the aircraft out of service it is financially untenable to continue the wet lease operations. Especially with the uncertainty around what costs Boeing will cover for affected airlines.
Demand on the routes in question also skewed somewhat heavily towards the summer travel season. Depending on the timing of recertification of the MAX they could be brought back for the 2020 season. Or maybe not. But the carrier will need to find new and profitable places to press the planes into service. The growing Argentina subsidiary could absorb a couple frames, perhaps, but not the full complement. And the airline has already tried some creative options with the fleet, such as flights to the French Caribbean from the United States and Canada in the winter season.
Regarding staff at the affected airports, Norwegian does not have any direct employees on the North America side; those contractors will be affected, however. On the Ireland side, the company is “proactively engaging with our pilots and cabin crew at our Dublin base, including their respective unions, to ensure that redundancies remain a last resort.”