Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — It won’t be the only low-cost carrier to offer transatlantic routes out of Canada, but its growth rate is off the charts, with 60 routes out of the U.S. just 5 years after entering that market. Now Norwegian Air has confirmed it is coming into Canada with new flights out of Montreal starting fall 2018 and out of Hamilton starting spring 2019 – and it wants to work with travel agents.
Seasonal flights from Montreal to the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique will launch Oct. 29, 2018 and Nov. 1, 2018 respectively, according to the low-cost carrier.
Norwegian will also launch the only transatlantic flight out of Hamilton International Airport (YHM) on March 31, 2019, with year-round, daily service to Dublin.
“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,” says Thomas Ramdahl, Norwegian’s Chief Commercial Officer.
He adds: “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.”
The airline also announced new four times weekly service from both Guadeloupe and Martinique to Cayenne in French Guiana. Service from Fort Lauderdale to both islands will increase to four weekly flights each, and to six weekly flights each from New York-JFK.
“Norwegian was the first airline in more than 20 years to link both French Caribbean islands to New York City and in these three years, we have seen our operation continue to grow and expand. We will now be the only airline to connect the French Caribbean with both Canada and the U.S., as well as French Guiana,” said Ramdahl.
The Montreal-Guadeloupe flights will operate three times per week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Flights to Martinique will operate three times per week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Launch fares to both cities start at $219 one-way, including taxes. Both routes will operate until end of March 2019.
Meanwhile year-round daily service from John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport to Dublin will launch March 31 with one-way introductory fares from $279 including taxes.
Cathie Puckering, President & CEO, John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, says Norwegian’s announcement introducing its first-ever transatlantic flight between Europe and Canada “is a game-changer” for travellers in Southern Ontario.
“Hamilton International provides access to a large population base and is well positioned to facilitate low-cost operations for carriers such as Norwegian,” says Puckering. “Our passengers love flying from Hamilton and will now be able to access affordable options to destinations in Europe. We are thrilled to welcome Norwegian and its transatlantic service to Dublin next summer 2019, when people will be able to access this new service exclusively from Hamilton.”
Alison Metcalfe, Tourism Ireland’s Head of North America, welcomes the new lift as well. “We are pleased to welcome the launch by Norwegian of a new flight from Hamilton to Dublin, as part of expanding its North American route network to include Canada. Starting in Spring 2019, it’s more good news as we continue to grow Canadian visitors to the island of Ireland. We look forward to working closely with Norwegian to maximize the promotion of the new flight. As an island, the importance of convenient direct air access cannot be overstated in delivering growth in inbound tourism.”
Norwegian Air was on track to launch in Canada in summer 2018 but the delayed delivery of two B737s derailed those plans, with a too-short pre-sale period.
Norwegian isn’t the first LCC to come into Canada with transatlantic flights. Competitors include Primera Air and WOW air. And the LCC phenomenon certainly isn’t new either: Southwest Airlines got the ball rolling in the U.S. in the 1970s and then fares in Europe took a dive with the launch of Ryanair and easyJet in the mid-1980s and mid-1990s.
Just about every legacy airline has launched its own low-cost carrier too, from Air Canada Rouge to BA’s Level and Air France’s Joon.
So what’s different about Norwegian? Most airline analysts point to the carrier’s aggressive growth strategy. After launching long-haul flights in 2013 Norwegian now has more than 500 routes servicing a network of 150+ destinations, with long-hauls operated through fully-owned subsidiaries.
Norwegian is now the world’s sixth largest low-cost airline, carrying 33 million passengers in 2017 on a fleet of more than 150 aircraft, with an average age of 3.7 years.
Like just about every LCC and ULCC Norwegian Air doesn’t pay commission but Ramdahl says the carrier is looking at setting up volume-based incentives for the trade. Norwegian’s travel agent portal is https://agent.norwegian.com.
“Agents are important to us,” says Ramdahl. “Especially coming into new markets, agents are really important.”
Look for more coverage about Norwegian’s arrival in Canada in an upcoming issue of Travelweek.