The Vikings are Coming!

Norwegian Air International Limited doesn’t sound like an entity that has much to do with Ireland. However, Friday’s announcement that the airline will fly Ryanair-type flights to America from Ireland at low costs has the potential to completely upset the cozy group of airlines who currently keep prices high on the route.

Introductory fares of $69 have been published which, no doubt, will be snapped up by bargain-seeking airline passengers, currently paying many multiples of that.

While the current plan is to fly to Cork and Shannon from Boston and New York, that could greatly expand if it proves a successful venture. The news has been received with huge enthusiasm in Ireland.

Speaking at the Irish Consulate in New York, Irish leader Enda Kenny enthusiastically gave a thumbs up to the new service. He said the decision would "do for long-haul travel what Ryanair have done for short-haul travel.”

Anyone who has traveled between Ireland and Britain can certainly testify to that. Ryanair fly from Heathrow, Stansted, Luton and Gatwick in the greater London area at prices that are hard to believe at first. By yardstick of passengers carried, 100 million last year alone, Ryanair is now the largest airline in the world. They started in 1985 with one small internal route in Ireland.

Norwegian with its aggressive expansion plans may be joining the world rankings soon enough. Their entry to Ireland has certainly been welcomed.

Niall McCarthy, Managing Director at Cork Airport said: “This is momentous news for air travelers on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s great news for Open Skies and for consumer choice and competition. I firmly believe this will permanently transform the transatlantic market in Ireland and further afield for the better. Norwegian will do for transatlantic travel what Ryanair has done for European travel, bringing lower fares, increased competition and growth to the overall market.

“There has been a tremendous amount of work undertaken to secure this route on both sides of the Atlantic and we must acknowledge the huge support received from political, business and local government stakeholders in Ireland, the EU and U.S. The final stages of the process have seen a significant contribution and support from the public too and I want to thank everyone who helped make this happen.

“These flights will help grow inbound tourism, give Cork Airport’s passengers greater choice, attract more investment to the region and improve social and cultural ties between Ireland and the U.S. We expect Boston bound flights to take off in coming months with New York flights beginning soon afterwards. Securing a transatlantic service for Ireland’s second largest airport has been an aspiration of ours for some time and Norwegian Air’s service will be welcomed by business and leisure travelers throughout the region.”

Of course the airline pilots union has complained bitterly about Norwegian. Ryanair faced the same hostility when they started up but proved that cheap, safe, efficient no-frills flying is what consumers want.

It has long been the desire of Irish in America and Ireland for a Ryanair type airline on the North Atlantic route. Currently, despite 28 flights total a day from airlines such as Aer Lingus, American Delta, United, Ethiopian Air, there are little variances in fare. The only exception is WOW, an Icelandic carrier that however, stops off in Iceland for a lengthy period on the way.

Norwegian fly brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes, 20 percent more fuel efficient than their rivals which allows them to offer far lower fares. Any suggestion that the planes are battered charter type operations vanishes the moment you see the slickness of the new planes.

I happened to fly Norwegian to London last week and was impressed with the quietness of the 787, the enlarged windows which make for much better viewing and enjoyment of flight and the no frills, but perfectly adequate services available on board.

You can upgrade to premium economy which costs about $200 dollars more  and makes a profound difference in terms of leg space, sleeping ability as the seats tilt back, and better food

Norwegian's motto is “Affordable Fares for All” and some of their top priorities according to their web site are:
• Attract customers by offering competitive low fares and a quality travel experience
• Maintain low operating costs, operational excellence and helpful, friendly service
• Offer "Freedom to choose": a core low-cost product as well as a more comprehensive package for those who desire more
• Offer high-frequency business destinations to primary airports and a wide range of destinations for leisure travelers

If they succeed they will revolutionize air travel from Ireland to the U.S. and send prices tumbling as Irish leader Enda Kenny has said.

The term “game changer” comes to mind. Amazing it took a Nordic airline around since 1921 to set the stage for massive change. It can only be good for consumers.

Read more: Ryanair asks wheelchair user to walk up stairs, leaves her crying at the gate