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Norwegian Air Canceling Las Vegas Summer Flights Citing Heat

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The Las Vegas heat appears to be too much for Norwegian Air Shuttle. Citing multiple delays this past summer due to the heat, the carrier is canceling all of its LAS flights for summer 2017.

Currently, Norwegian Air operates nonstop flights between Las Vegas (LAS) and four European cities: London’s Gatwick (LGW), Oslo (OSL), Stockholm (ARN) and Copenhagen (CPH). All four routes are now scheduled to end by March 25, and “seasonal service” isn’t expected to return until November 2017.

Norwegian seems quick to defend the reason for the cancellations, with a spokesperson noting “the routes are doing well.” According to a spokesman for McCarran International Airport, “flights from Las Vegas to Stockholm were at 92.5 percent capacity through Oct. 31, while flights to Copenhagen were running at 81.6 percent.” As both the LGW and OSL routes just launched two weeks ago, there’s understandably no mention of the performance on those flights.

Other airlines are able to operate in Las Vegas' heat without the same issues.
Other airlines are able to operate in Las Vegas’ heat without the same issues. Image courtesy of Etienne de Maglaive via Getty Images.

According to a report from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Norwegian Air has to ground flights when Las Vegas temperatures reach 104 degrees, and Las Vegas heat topped this magic number 60 times in 2016. Norwegian is especially affected by the heat due to its very compact, mostly economy (with a slightly less-compact Premium Class cabin) layout. This means that Norwegian planes likely push back from LAS at the maximum allowable takeoff weight.

When temperatures soar, the air becomes thinner and aircraft require more runway to take off. There’s only one runway in LAS that’s long enough for a maxed-out 787-8 aircraft under normal conditions, and it seems that this runway isn’t even long enough for Norwegian to operate once Vegas temperatures hit 104 degrees.

In order to counter the heat’s effects, Norwegian could have implemented weight controls to allow flights to continue to operate. Reducing the number of passengers, capping baggage and pulling cargo all could lighten the aircraft enough to allow it to take off during the extreme heat. However, doing so would obviously cut into Norwegian’s profitability. Low-cost carriers typically operate on the margins, and even a few major delays or cancellations could cause Norwegian to lose money on these routes. So, it seems like a straightforward business decision just to cancel these routes during periods of extreme heat.

All four routes will be abruptly ended the week of March 20, 2017.
All four routes will be abruptly ending for the summer by March 25, 2017.

While avoiding the warm Las Vegas summer weather is understandable, it seems very strange that Norwegian would pull the routes in March. Let’s take Norwegian at its word that 104 degrees is the temperature that causes delays. Las Vegas’ average highs don’t top 90 degrees until May 22, and the 100-degree average highs don’t start until June 21. Even during the record-breaking heat of summer 2015, Las Vegas didn’t experience 100-degree weather until June.

Additionally, these routes aren’t scheduled to return until “seasonal service” in November 2017. If the reason was solely due to the heat and the routes were performing well, you’d think Norwegian would milk out a couple more months of flights before suspending them — and then reinstate the flights as soon as the weather cooled in September.

Even more suspect, when the Las Vegas Review-Journal pressed, Norwegian wouldn’t say how many times heat delayed a flight. Instead, a spokesperson explained “It didn’t happen that often, but it was enough times to make us realize that it was issue and we didn’t want to keep delaying our customers.”

Bottom Line

Norwegian is going to fly direct from LAX to six destinations next summer.
Norwegian will fly nonstop from LAX to six destinations next summer.

Whether because of the heat or other undisclosed factors, Norwegian Air is suspending flights to/from Las Vegas (LAS) next March. If you already have tickets booked for those dates, reach out to Norwegian for a refund — or perhaps reaccommodation out of seemingly cool-enough Los Angeles (LAX).

Are you affected by these cancellations?

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