Norwegian chief executive Bjorn Kjos has delivered an address in London to outline his global expansion plans for carrier and its UK operations.
Speaking at an event at The Shard, Kjos said: “The UK will be at the heart of our continued global expansion and we remain fully committed to the market.
“We are launching long-haul routes exclusively from London Gatwick, introducing our newest Dreamliners to Gatwick and increasing frequency on popular routes which reflects the growing importance of the UK to the future of our business.”
The conference came as Norwegian prepares to launch a new flight to Buenos Aires.
As part of the expansion Norwegian Air Argentina has been set up with concessions to fly 72 domestic and 80 international routes out of the Argentine capital.
This could include onward connections to Mendoza, Cordoba, and Iguazu Falls for UK travellers, Kjos suggests.
New direct services to Chicago and Austin, out of Gatwick, will follow in March.
Kjos added: “With huge global ambitions, we’re confident that the UK can offer Norwegian a springboard to further expansion as we aim to become the long-haul airline of choice for passengers seeking a high-quality service at great value.”
Europe’s third largest low-cost airline has sought to boost the market in low-cost, long-haul travel since launching transatlantic services from London Gatwick to the USA in 2014.
Norwegian has since flown more than two million passengers on its transatlantic routes from London Gatwick.
The airline flew more than 5.1 million UK passengers in 2017.
Norwegian is also expected to see eight new Airbus A321neo LR join its fleet by 2019, with plans to serve the UK from 2020.
The A321neo LR will be Norwegian’s first Airbus aircraft and plans are under development to fly the planes from London to the US East Coast and Midwest.
Philadelphia, Detroit, and Minneapolis were suggested as possible destinations.
Norwegian will also consider routes to the Middle East using the Airbus A321neo LR, Kjos added.
Clouds on the horizon
Kjos did however single out issues that could create turbulence looking ahead, with airspace limitations cited as a major concern.
Russia currently bars Norwegian UK from its airspace, limiting the carrier’s expansion plans in Asia.
“Perhaps they do not like competition,” Kjos moots.
If Russia were to open its airspace to the carrier, a move which has the support of the UK government, Norwegian could open routes to Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai, argues Kjos.
Congested airports in the UK were also cited as a drag on growth.
“We need many more runways here in London,” adds the Norwegian chief executive.
“The extension of Gatwick is very cheap; to me it is surprising the capacity at Gatwick is not expanded.”