Norwegian slashes bases & passenger perks in cost cutting drive



Perennially cash-strapped Norwegian Airlines are masters or public relations, always planting a positive headline just ahead of a wedge of bad negative news.

Yesterday’s positive was the announcement of ‘free’ WiFi on all 737 flights. Look more closely and you’ll find its just a package of almost useless WiFi access coupled to several bands of chargeable, with differing levels of speed and access. In other words near standard industry practice.

The bad news was that premium passengers will no longer get club lounge access. Unless you pay for the most expensive version, the  PremiumFlex ticket, the version which can cost as much as three or four times a standard premium ticket. More to the point very few of those are sold – about 1% of tickets sold are fully flexible all-inclusive. So Norwegian has in effect slashed a huge cost denying premium passengers lounge access which runs at about £20/$29 per person.

Next on the list was the savage reduction in crew bases. 737 bases will be slashed – they’re not cutting the routes, just the basing which really impacts how crew operate and makes their lives significantly harder. Palma de Mallorca; Gran Canaria and Tenerife in Spain; Rome Fiumicino in Italy; and New York Stewart and Providence, Rhode Island, in the US, will all start to shut down from April.

787 Operations will continue almost untouched but pilots will no longer be based at Amsterdam, Bangkok or Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

This is apparently being done without making anyone redundant. Because that would cost money. everyone will be offered alternate employment at the airline, but you can bet you bottom dollar they’ll be expecting the vast majority to simply decline to transfer away from their home base voluntarily, and save themselves the costs of getting rid of them.

The airline said it wasn’t cutting any routes, then said it was cutting a number of route frequencies, from Rome this summer, including Gothenburg, Tenerife South, Reykjavik and Tel Aviv, and mentioned that frequencies on several routes from affected airports will be reduced.

The details are what matters of course: Palma de Mallorca to Copenhagen frequencies will drop to 13 weekly departures from 14. Frequencies from the Palma de Majorca airport to Oslo, Düsseldorf and Helsinki will also fall. The airline’s Rome-Helsinki frequencies will reduce to four per week from six, and Tenerife North-Madrid frequencies will drop to seven weekly departures from nine.

If you look at some of those routes – Düsseldorf is being heavily pressed by Eurowings and Finnair is pressing hard on the Helsinki route, so it’s actually suffering from aggressive competition.