Norse Atlantic Airways will only start operations when it is certain that the transatlantic has reopened for air travel and that most Covid-restrictions have been lifted. “We have now seen that restrictions have not been lifted as quickly for long-haul travel as for short-haul travel, so we think it is a more realistic scenario for us is to be operational by Q1 or early Q2 next year”, CEO Bjorn Tore Larsen said during an update on August 10. Norse will only launch when the timing is right.
In April, Norse said it planned to launch in December, although that depended on various factors, including the Covid-situation and getting the required Norwegian and UK Airline Operator Certificates (AOC). It said in April: “There is no guarantee that the Company will be able to have all approvals and agreements in place to start commercial flying operations in December 2021, or at all.” It is still in the process of getting the AOC’s.
December remains an option, said Larsen, “but we don’t want to start too early. There is no point flying around with empty aircraft.” He added that Norse has a very solid cash position, “so we can afford to wait it out for a long period of time if that is required.” However, Larsen estimates that demand will be back early in 2022 or around spring and that Norse will have all its fifteen Boeing 787-8s and -9s operational by next summer. Norse has leased nine Dreamliners from AerCap in March and last week announced an agreement with BOC Aviation for six, all former Norwegian aircraft that were returned to the lessors since Norwegian discontinued long-haul operations.
Norse Atlantic clearly had high ambitions to fill this void left by Norwegian. Larsen said that his airline has received many requests from the public on when he will launch and where it will go. The initial schedule includes Oslo to London Heathrow and Paris, and to New York, Fort Lauderdale, and Los Angeles. More destinations will be added later. Larsen isn’t ruling out opening a base in Dublin to serve the popular Irish market, although it has been used by Norwegian too to base cheap staff there. Norse is also in talks with US and European airlines about feeder agreements that will benefit all involved so that Norse is guaranteed of connecting passengers.
Preventing the Norwegian pitfalls
While many within Norse’s (lean) management have roots within Norwegian, the start-up has taken a good look at the rival airline to prevent the pitfalls that have almost led to Norwegian’s demise, including growing too quickly and taking on debt to unsustainable levels. It also has a different business model and employs all staff directly instead of through payroll constructions. Fear of this made US Congressmen initially call for a ban of Norse into the US, but now it has even signed an agreement with the US’ biggest cabin crew union to 700 jobs. The airline needs 25 pilots per aircraft, so will recruit between 350 and 400, but recruitment will only start when there is more clarity on the launch date. Ticket sales will begin three months before that.
Larsen says his airline will have an entirely different business model from others including Norwegian that is focused only on long-haul low-cost. “We have a very lean operation and we know that by historic revenues and based on the cost-base we have, we can make decent profits.”
The Dreamliners come in two cabin configurations. Twelve 787-9s will have 343 seats with Premium Economy and Economy, while the remaining three are 787-8s with 291 seats. During the media event, Norse also unveiled its livery. The Oseberg livery and logo are inspired on the tails of the famous (and also notorious…) Viking ships that ruled the seas some thousand years ago.