Many changes to the Norwegian network have been seen in recent months as the carrier seeks to shore its finances. The latest news from the airline, however, is a massive shift. Reports indicate that the airline will halt long-haul operations from Stockholm and Copenhagen effective with the end of the IATA Winter 2020 season on 29 March 2020. In a statement to e24.no Long Distance and New Markets Director Matthew Wood explained the cuts, “[W]e see that the long-distance market to and from Scandinavia is small, compared to large cities such as New York, London, Los Angeles, Paris and Rome. Scandinavia is not large enough to maintain intercontinental flights from Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen.”
Norwegian issued a statement this morning to PaxEx.Aero further confirming the changes:
As Norwegian moves from growth to profitability, we take a strict approach to route management and continue to constantly evaluate route performance to ensure we meet customer demand. Following a comprehensive review of our global network, overall demand and commercial viability - combined with ongoing operational issues with Rolls-Royce engines on some of our Dreamliner aircraft - we have decided to discontinue long-haul flights from Stockholm and Copenhagen. The demand for transatlantic travel to and from the Nordics is limited compared to larger European markets and not sufficient enough to justify a large nonstop intercontinental operation out of three Scandinavian cities: Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen. For summer 2020 and beyond, our five U.S. routes to/from Oslo will remain.
At the same time, we are experiencing increased demand on a series of well-performing routes. To meet this demand, we are adding more frequencies on flights to London, Paris and Barcelona from several cities in the U.S., enabling even more choice and affordable fares to the flying public on both sides of the Atlantic.
In cutting these routes Norwegian will shift its 787 Dreamliner fleet to resolve two problems. One is the continuing Rolls Royce engine issues that have caused the carrier no end of headaches and scheduling troubles. By cutting the routes served the carrier should be able to better manage its fleet while the remaining Trent 1000 issues are resolved. The carrier expects seven or eight of its Dreamliners will be grounded at any given time throughout the Summer 2020 operation.
In addition Norwegian will refocus its Transatlantic operations to more profitable bases at Paris, Barcelona, Rome and London. The US market is already Norwegian’s largest and the company expects that growth to continue. But it will also be delivering more travelers to more desired destinations in Europe. Americans are more keen to see Paris and Rome than Copenhagen and Stockholm. That the airline founded its long-haul network from the Scandinavian bases matters less now that it has operations at the other, larger European cities.
These latest route restructuring moves come some months after the carrier cut nine crew bases and trimmed other benefits from the inflight experience. Most of those moves focused on the short-haul operation but 787 cuts came at Amsterdam, Bangkok and Fort Lauderdale. The 737 MAX grounding earlier this year further affected the carrier, with 18 frames removed from service. While it maintained some of its secondary TATL routes through the initial pains of the grounding those also dropped eventually.
The news also follows Norwegian’s announcement that it is “fully funded through 2020 and beyond.” While securing the additional capital is important to the carrier’s survival, the fundraising is a short-term play. Implementing substantive changes to the route structure is a long-term move that should deliver a lasting impact. Just how positive that impact is remains to be seen.
The news is also somewhat ironic considering the email message sent to US customer for Thanksgiving. That note highlights the daily Transatlantic services and notes that Norwegian is still operating, unlike “turkey counterparts” from other LCCs that halted operations in the past year. Sending that message less than a day before massively changing the Transatlantic route network is an interesting choice.