Norwegian route restart may indicate demand for air travel in Europe is coming back
On Wednesday, low-cost carrier Norwegian announced plans to reintroduce short-haul flying outside of Norway as of July 1 — at least eight months earlier than originally planned. That is a hopeful sign demand for air travel may be returning in Europe faster than airlines had anticipated during the height of the coronavirus crisis.
Norwegian, the third-largest low-cost airline in Europe after Ryanair and EasyJet, will restart key routes to and from the U.K. airports of London Gatwick (LGW) and Edinburgh (EDI).
Beginning July 1, Norwegian will operate flights from Gatwick to Oslo (OSL) seven times per week and to Copenhagen (CPH) six times per week.In Scotland, Edinburgh will see two return flights per week to both Oslo and Copenhagen.
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In April, Norwegian announced a grim outlook. The airline said that it planned to keep its European short-haul operations and long-haul operations grounded until at least April 2021. The restart of some flights announced on Wednesday does not include long-haul flights, which remain on hold until at least April 2021.
Wednesday’s decision to increase the number of short-haul routes has come due to increased customer demand across Europe.
“Feedback from our customers has shown that they are keen to get back in the air and resume their travels with Norwegian beyond the current domestic services that we have been operating,” Norwegian CEO Jacob Schram said in a statement.
As of July 1, a total of 12 Norwegian aircraft will be returning to the skies, joining the eight that have remained in service to operate 13 domestic routes in Norway.
The airline has introduced enhanced safety measures to protect the health of passengers and crew including the mandatory wearing of face masks for passengers over the age of six. To help with social distancing, passengers will be asked to keep as far apart as possible during boarding and deplaning, and middle seats will be the last to be allocated. The airline is also advising passengers to place their hand luggage under the seat in front to reduce time in the aisle while boarding, and there will be no catering on board to minimize contact between passengers and crew.
As of July, Norwegian will operate a total of 76 routes from its hubs across Scandinavia to popular destinations across Europe including Spain and Greece.
The move is a huge boost for London Gatwick Airport. During the peak of the pandemic, the airport had seen several of its largest carriers pull service. EasyJet completely grounded its operations from the airport and British Airways closed its base, as did Virgin Atlantic.
While the airport has reopened its North Terminal, it will still struggle to return to full operation while major operators like BA and Virgin remain totally committed to Heathrow.
Elsewhere in European aviation, Ryanair will be making a comeback as of July 1, as will British Airways, which is planning to fly a total of 29 long-haul routes in the same month. EasyJet has already recommenced some scheduled domestic flights within the U.K. as of June 15.