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The ‘will they or won’t they’ fuss over Norwegian’s proposed transatlantic flight program to London Gatwick for this summer overshadows a number of other interesting developments in the transatlantic aviation market. Norwegian is of course already regularly flying its 787 Dreamliners across the Atlantic, on non-stop routes such as Fort Lauderdale to Copenhagen and New York to Stockholm. This month Norwegian has added new routes from Los Angeles to both Copenhagen and Stockholm.
Questions over Gatwick services
With respect to its proposed Gatwick venture, Norwegian is facing a barrage of criticism from US-based legacy carriers and pilots’ unions who fear that the company’s low-cost model may threaten the cushioned comforts which they have enjoyed for decades. The coming weeks will reveal whether Norwegian really does get to launch its proposed routes from LA, Fort Lauderdale and JFK into Gatwick in July.
Even if it does go ahead, the Norwegian operation is merely a blip in the pond. We are talking about one Gatwick-based plane flying the company’s three US routes in and out of the airport—providing in total just six flights each week from the USA to London. The market for transatlantic flights is reshaping to reflect new patterns of consumer demand. Many punters nowadays want to fly direct to Europe from regional airports around North America.
Shortest transatlantic crossing: 4 hours
This summer sees a number of interesting new routes that tap regional markets. So British Airways this month launched a new non-stop route from Austin to London Heathrow, and Westjet will start the shortest transatlantic flights of the season on June 15 with its new route from St John’s (Newfoundland) to Dublin.
The ever-reliable OAG flight database shows a block time of 4 hrs 15 mins for the sector, so the 2000-mile route will require less than four hours in the air, barely enough time to enjoy supper and have a quick snooze before the plane is descending to touch down in Ireland. One-way fares start at $275 (Canadian dollars)—and that includes all taxes, fuel surcharges and checked baggage.
New daytime flights to Europe
Europe Airpost may sound more like the mailman than an airline. But this French cargo airline also carries humans. It’s an unusual choice for transatlantic travel, but this summer the airline offers the only daytime flights from Canada to Europe. Avoid the pain of an overnighter with Europe Airpost’s direct daytime flights from Halifax (Nova Scotia) to Glasgow and Paris. The service will operate in July and August only, using Boeing 737s with space for 128 passengers
From lesser airports direct to Europe
Many of the big airfare search engines may overlook useful carriers that could be just what you need for your routing. Casting around and checking individual airlines’ websites may reap handsome rewards. How many travelers from the Twin Cities or the Pacific Northwest would think of checking the Condor website for direct flights to Germany? But in fact the carrier has summer-season direct flights to Frankfurt from both Minneapolis-Saint Paul and Seattle—and, for that matter, even flies non-stop this summer from Fairbanks (Alaska) and Whitehorse (Yukon) to Frankfurt.
Basel or Riga? Why not fly direct?
Another carrier that features less prominently in the imagination is Air Transat, which from June thru September this year offers scheduled non-stop flights from Montreal to Basel.
Choosing a less-obvious airline may allow you to route directly to your chosen destination in Europe. If you are heading out of the Big Apple bound for the Baltic States, you might assume that there are no direct flights and opt to travel via London, Amsterdam or Copenhagen. But there is one airline which has reliably served the New York to Riga route for years—and that is Uzbekistan Airways. The flight time is just under nine hours on the airline’s Boeing 767.
Check out less obvious carriers
Opting for an obscure airline may bring advantages. The fastest schedules on the New York to Brussels route are not achieved by any US or European airline but by the Indian carrier Jet Airways which offers a daily flight from Newark to Brussels. If you are heading to Italy and, like us, you think that Middle Eastern style is hard to beat, then consider using Emirates’ new non-stop service from New York to Milan. Five different carriers compete daily on the route, four of them flying out of JFK and one from Newark. We think that Emirates is the best of the JFK options.
Singapore Airlines from the USA to Europe
On the busy route from New York City to Frankfurt, four different IATA carriers are in head-to-head competition, between them offering six non-stop departures every evening from New York. Our top choice is the least obvious one, namely Singapore Airlines which flies the flagship Airbus A380-800 on the route. It’s not the airline’s only transatlantic service. Another very useful link is the Houston to Moscow route, where Singapore Airlines jealously guards its enviable position as sole operator of a route that appeals to more than merely oil executives.