Manoeuvres AIRLINES

Norwegian plans to use the Boeing 737 MAX to fly from Edinburgh to New York

Eurowings Group”, rather than point to its Lufthansa heritage. At the time, it pledged that: “Brussels Airlines will assume an important role in the further development of the Eurowings Group into a pan-European platform”. Brussels Airlines has nine A330s and

strength in serving former Belgian colonies in Africa, one market where the budget long-haul formula might be easily applied. It begins flights to Mumbai in March, another market where price is king. Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr

told media in Brussels that: “We see a lot more consolidation to come” and said the deal would create “a more pan-European Eurowings” with 180 aircraft. Fresh thinking will become evident when new CEO Thorsten Dirks joins Eurowings in May from Telefonica. His telecommunications sector experience should serve the airline well, with digital streaming being the future of in-flight entertainment and the direct sales platform the preferred medium. Before he joins, Dirks will doubtless be watching how Norwegian is leading the field. Having used the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to slash fares to the US from Scandinavia and the UK, Norwegian is about to play another trump card in the form of the Boeing 737 MAX. The first 189-seat narrowbody is delivered in June and debuts at Edinburgh, with its first destination an unspecified New York airport.

Boeing will not divulge what runway length the MAX needs, but options apart from Newark (where Norwegian’s

Barcelona flights will head) could include Stewart International, 60 miles north of Manhattan, with an 11,800-feet runway, or, if payload allows, MacArthur, 60 miles east, with 7,000 feet, 1,400 feet less than Edinburgh. Either of these latter two would mean low-cost, long-haul at its purest, with cheap airports and the MAX’s economics driving down fares and pushing up margins. What comes after is still under wraps, but a Norwegian spokesperson added: “We are not looking at Manchester at the moment.” He did confirm, however, that some of the nine 787-9s being delivered in 2017 would be flying from Gatwick to non-US routes. Norwegian will use the 787 to debut

at Barcelona-El Prat Airport in March with flights to New York, Fort Lauderdale, Oakland and Los Angeles. This incursion into IAG territory has prompted a reaction from the group, whose Vueling budget brand is based there. IAG will launch what it calls a “next generation long- haul operation” in June, using feed from Vueling’s 15 million passengers there. The group is playing catch-up here and at Gatwick, where British Airways (BA) will move onto Norwegian’s Fort Lauderdale and Oakland routes this summer and with BA boss Alex Cruz having admitted Norwegian had taught the airline there were destinations that it “had no idea people wanted to fly to”. IAG says routes being considered

from El Prat “include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Havana and Tokyo” using a pair of

Airbus A330s. It adds that no decision has been made about whether to set up a new airline or use an existing IAG brand. Iberia in some form seems the obvious choice although Aer Lingus has the lowest long- haul cost base among all IAG brands.

Same strategy?

Another player may emerge in 2017 if new Air France/KLM group CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac can persuade unions to cooperate. Janaillac, who insists that “the status quo is no longer possible”, plans to operate 10 aircraft by 2020. Comprising only 10% of the airlines’ long-haul network, it is however a toe in the water and plans to initially operate Airbus A340s, not the most economical of aircraft.

If anyone tries to tell you that all this is

new, point out that really, it isn’t. Over in Australia and Asia, they may be watching with some amusement as Europe’s legacy carriers adjust to the new reality. Qantas will smugly point out that it launched its first long-haul Jetstar flight, to Honolulu, in late 2006, with Singapore Airlines following with its offshoot Scoot in 2012. Both have proved that the two-brand strategy works, even with some route duplication. Lufthansa, IAG and others are learning

this lesson. It might be a little late, but 2017 looks to be the year when the some subtle and not so subtle manoeuvring begins and the travelling public and some delighted secondary airport owners start to reap the benefits. The revolution is under way. £ ROUTES NEWS 2017 ISSUE 1 29

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