Norwegian to launch cheap flights from Edinburgh-California
Budget flights from Edinburgh to Los Angeles and San Francisco will be launched in around two years' time, low cost airline Norwegian has revealed.
Chief executive Bjorn Kjos also plans flights from the Scottish capital to Midwest cities like Memphis in 2019.
The airline’s ambitious expansion plans from Scotland could further include services between Edinburgh and Canadian destinations such as Toronto, along with more US destinations north of Boston.
Mr Kjos said: “I think we can fly from a lot of American cities into Scotland.
“We are going to bring a lot of tourists from the States to Edinburgh.”
He was speaking at Edinburgh Airport as he launched its inaugural Norwegian US flight, to upstate New York.
The route to Stewart, a 90-minute drive north of New York City, will be followed by another to Providence, Rhode Island, today and to Hartford, Connecticut, tomorrow.
Fares are from around £250 return, far lower than the three other airlines flying between Edinburgh and New York.
However, Norwegian charges extra for baggage, and food and drink.
Some 70 per cent of passengers on the routes are Americans heading for Scotland, which Norwegian hopes to repeat in other densely-populated areas of the US.
Mr Kjos told The Scotsman said it would fly to the Californian cities once more of the long-range Boeing 787 Dreamliners on order arrived.
He said of the prospect of direct flights to San Francisco and LA: “I hope we will see that not too far ahead.
“It is highly likely to be in 2019.
“Los Angeles is an obvious place.”
Mr Kjos said he was also looking at flights between Edinburgh and the Midwest using a separate fleet of Airbus A321 aircraft, which is also on its way.
He said: “A lot of people from Scotland are living in that area.”
The chief executive was confident that Norwegian would be able to compete with United, American and Delta on its initial US routes from Edinburgh.
It will use brand new Boeing 737-MAX planes, with their increased fuel efficiency, although flights until mid-July will be operated by older 737-800s because of delays with the new aircraft.
Mr Kjos said: “We are attracting a different type of passenger and the other airlines have much higher fares.
“At airports like Stewart, we can fly on very low fares and attract Americans who previously flew to nearer destinations, such as in Canada, who will now go to Scotland.
“Scotland has so much to offer tourists.”
The budget airline’s expansion plan follow Norwegian’s rapid transatlantic growth at Gatwick, from an initial three to ten destinations over the past three years.
A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: “Norwegian is keen to grow, which is really exciting for us.
“The new US routes have the feel of a different, pioneering service.”
International development minister Alasdair Allan, who helped launch the inaugural flight, said: “This is just the start of Norwegian’s long-haul operations from Edinburgh and Scotland.
“Norwegian has placed a significant order for new aircraft, so we look forward to more exciting developments in the future.”