Low-cost long-haul airline Norwegian Air has been one of the biggest stories in international aviation in the past few years with explosive growth, cheap fares, and scores of shiny new planes.
The growth, however, is not finished. On Wednesday, the carrier announced it will add two more European nonstop routes from Boston’s Logan airport to Rome and Madrid for summer 2019. And in a move to increase discoverability of its cheap flights, the company is switching up a few airports.
Norwegian already has Boston to Paris and London, but the addition of Rome and Madrid adds two key summer destinations for travelers from New England, from which demand to Europe is high.
“We’re getting better at seasonably adjusting routes,” Norwegian’s North American communications director Anders Lindström told Yahoo Finance. Lindström said that the seasonality is significant as travelers from Europe may want to go to Florida at one time of the year, but Denver another. When the summer routes, which begin at the end of March and go until the end of October, are paused, planes are allocated to winter destinations, such as Thailand — a popular winter retreat for Europeans.
The juggle to make sure all aircraft are being used and used efficiently is a constant dance performed by airlines, and one that is doubly important for a low-cost carrier like Norwegian. In search of further efficiency, Lindström said that the airline figured out a way to keep more airplanes in use over the winter.
“Every winter, it’s not as popular as in the summer. European airlines park a number of aircraft,” he said. “We’d park 10. Obviously that’s not ideal, but we had someone very creative saying how we could utilize these aircraft using some of them during the winter period.”
The solution was to fly to the French Caribbean, something that was made possible by agreements that allow European airlines to fly direct to the U.S. Given that Martinique and Guadeloupe are, in fact technically part of France, it was possible.
Airports that work better with search
The airline is also shaking up a few of its existing routes. Nonstop service to London, which currently operates out of Fort Lauderdale and Oakland, Calif. — among other cities — will be switched to Miami and San Francisco, respectively. The reason is search engine optimization, or SEO.
Both sets of airports are in the same metropolitan area, but Miami and San Francisco garner more cargo opportunities and business travel, something for which Lindström said Norwegian has been seeing increased demand. (Instead of a “business class,” the company has a “Premium Cabin” option that is not quite as fancy and so may work for some business travelers when business class is precluded by policy.)
Another reason behind the switch is the fact that discoverability for San Francisco and Miami are far better than Oakland and Fort Lauderdale in search engines. Many flight search engines, such as Kayak and Orbitz, give people the option to select a city and know a group of metropolitan airports, but not all, and Lindström said this factored in the decision.
“When you search in those cities, in some search engines Oakland and Fort Lauderdale don’t show up,” said Lindström. “That will make a difference and open up our presence to a wider audience. I think the majority can tick a box that say nearby airports, but a lot of people don’t click because they don’t realize how close Fort Lauderdale is to Miami.”