Are cheap long-haul flights coming soon?

Long-distance flights on budget airlines haven't worked out in the past, can a Norwegian carrier buck the trend?
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor

A number of budget airlines have tried to bring their no-frills service to long-distance flights. In the past it hasn't worked out very well. Laker Airlines was the first to try it with a route between London and New York City in the late 70s, but the company went under less than five years later. More recently Oasis Hong Kong Airlines launched low-cost services between Hong Kong and London and Vancouver. Oasis only lasted three years. And, just last year, Malaysia's AirAsia X stopped flights to Europe to focus on mid-range flights throughout Asia.

Despite all the unsuccessful attempts in the past, Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) -- the fourth largest budget carrier in Europe -- sees a market for long-haul budget airlines and it intends on taking advantage.

The airline purchased eight of Boeing's Dreamliners and has numerous orders on new, more energy-efficient, aircrafts from Boeing and Airbus. The initial long-haul services will be between Oslo and New York, Oslo and Bangkok, and Stockholm and Bangkok as NAS receives its Dreamliner orders from Boeing. But why does NAS think the services will be successful this time? BBC reports:

In short, because of new-generation, fuel-efficient aircraft. "The Dreamliner and the Airbus 350 will really be a game-changer in this industry," Mr [Bjorn] Kjos [co-founder of NAS] said.

"When we did the calculations we could not get the numbers to add up with the old aircraft. We needed the new aircraft. The others did not have the possibility of the Dreamliner and the A350. Before, when you attempted to do low-cost when flying more than eight hours, it just didn't work."

It'll be an interesting experiment, but don't expect skeptics to buy in unless NAS can prove that there's a market for cheap tickets on eight hour flights with no meals.

But if they're right, it could make international travel easier, if only on the bank account.

Norwegian airline NAS targets budget long-haul market [BBC]

Photo: Flickr/Drewski2112

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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