The airline Norwegian Air is to start selling one-way tickets between Europe and the United States for a faintly ridiculous $69 (£45) as early as 2017.
Chief executive Bjørn Kjos said his company, Europe’s third-largest budget airline, was considering flights to Edinburgh, in Scotland and Bergen, in Norway from US airports with little or no current international service, such as New York’s Westchester county airport and Connecticut’s Bradley international airport.
Average prices on such routes were likely to be closer to $300 return, Kjos said, compared with many of Norwegian’s fares currently running at more than $500 because of higher fees levied by busier airports.
The potential plans are part of Norwegian’s broader move to cut prices and try to grab share from traditional flag carriers that dominate transatlantic flying.
While airlines such as Lufthansa offer travellers hundreds of destinations via connections in airport hubs, Norwegian is aiming to make nonstop service to small cities more common.
“I think you will see a lot to that effect within five years’ time,” Kjos said. “What will happen to [Lufthansa] when everyone starts to fly direct?”
Norwegian has 100 737 Max jets from Boeing on order and expects to receive five in 2017.
These planes were equipped to traverse the Atlantic but were smaller than most jets currently doing so, making them a better size for international flights to cities such as Birmingham in Britain, Kjos said.
Regulators would have to agree to set up customs stations at US regional airports to handle international traffic. Kjos said he was confident this can be arranged.
Norwegian is not the only airline to market cheap fares across the Atlantic. Iceland’s WOW Air recently offered one-way fares between Boston and Paris for $99. Lufthansa’s low-cost subsidiary Eurowings is also starting cheap long-haul flights.
Kjos downplayed the competitive threat of Eurowings, saying: “I don’t believe in their being able to operate low cost with a Boeing 767,” in part because the widebody planes save less fuel and have smaller range than planes such as the Boeing Dreamliners in Norwegian’s fleet.
Norwegian separately reported on Tuesday that it filled 96% of long-haul plane seats in September, helping the airline post better than expected results.