Norwegian Air To Start Offering Low Fares To US

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You don’t normally associate Scandinavia with cheap flight deals (or cheap anything, really), but low-cost carrier Norwegian Air has been making news lately not only with the announcement that it would be putting its new 787’s into service, but also the fact that it is going to be making an aggressive push into the US market with low fares on twice weekly flights to London from various cities in North America including Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando and San Francisco with roundtrips from New York to London going for as little as $244 each way – though they appear to be selling out quickly.

In an age where flights to Europe have gone up to the $800-$1,000 even in economy on average, scoring a flight for $500-$700, while still not cheap, is a comparative bargain, especially when flying to London, where taxes and carrier-imposed surcharges can be enormous and many times the cost of the airfare itself.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to transit through Oslo or Bergen or anything, these flights will go directly to Gatwick, making them a great option not only for flying to London, but also for transiting on to other points in the UK and Europe through this major hub.

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I just did a quick search for flights from JFK to London Gatwick and though the airfares over the summer seem to be up around the $700 mark, when September hits, the fares go down and a few roundtrip flights are available for $535 as well as several flights for $580 roundtrip throughout the month – and best of all, they’re aboard the airline’s new 787’s, so you can try out the new plane if you haven’t by then.

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Fares are as low as $535 roundtrip from JFK to London in September.

Comparable flights on the same days were over $1,000 on both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

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According to a recent announcement, the airline will also be flying twice weekly from Stockholm to LA and San Francisco, twice weekly from Copenhagen to LA and New York, once a week Oslo to LA, three times a week Oslo to San Francisco and twice a week from Oslo to Orlando all starting on various dates next spring.

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Now for the important part. Unfortunately, Norwegian doesn’t have any airline partners, but it does have a frequent flyer program and you can find the details here but basically here’s how it works:

• You earn 2% CashPoints on all LowFare tickets
• You earn 10% CashPoints on all Flex tickets
• 1 CashPoint = 1 NOK
• You can use your CashPoints as full or part payment to buy flight tickets, check-in luggage, seat reservations or ticket changes
• Your CashPoints remain valid until the end of the year you made your purchase + 2 years. For example, CashPoints for a flight purchased/paid for on 1 September 2009 are valid until 31 December 2011.

So it’s an interesting fixed-rate, revenue-based program where you basically earn 2% cash back on all low fare tickets and 10% cash back on full fare tickets. For instance, that New York – LGW itinerary above was a low fare ticket and would have earned me the following amount of CashPoints:

$535 = 3156 Norwegian Krone (NOK) so I would have earned 63 CashPoints on that fare. I could then put those CashPoints to use paying for luggage, seat assignments, etc. on this ticket or towards those expenses or airfare on future tickets, the equivalent of about $10.

While not the most lucrative mileage scheme, it’s still a solid earning/redeeming ratio, and I like that you can put the points towards incidental expenses as well, giving you some more flexibility. For more information on Low Fares versus Flex Fares, see this page.

The main selling point here, though, is the cheap fares to Europe, so if you’re planning to fly somewhere Norwegian flies once these new routes go into service, I’d check out what fares are available and compare them to what’s out there on an OTA like Orbitz or Expedia since there are also low fares to the other North American cities Norwegian plans to service and the airline flies from London to points all over Europe including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Crete, Lisbon, Milan and dozens of others.

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