A vision of a low cost carrier partnership between Europe’s largest budget airlines has been outlined by the boss of Norwegian Air Shuttle.
Partnerships with Ryanair, EasyJet could lay the groundwork for an alliance to challenge more established global carriers.
The agreements would allow the low-cost carriers to compete in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia for cost conscious customers.
Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos told CNN Money in Seattle that he hoped to have an initial partnership formalised first with Ryanair before the end of 2017 to allow passengers to book connecting flights on both airlines.
“Then the passenger has access to a huge network,” said Kjos. “Not only from Norwegian, but…from Ryanair. So they can fly cheap not only from A to B, but also from A to B to C to a variety of areas that we would never serve.”
Norwegian is plotting massive international expansion in addition to an extensive network of destinations across its European network.
Kjos said Ryanair’s heavy presence in Barcelona and Irish cities make it ideal for flowing passengers to its growing fleet of long-haul aircraft.
Negotiating an agreement with Ryanair is just the beginning, said Kjos,
“If we can do it with Ryanair, we can cover lots of routes, but we don’t cover all the routes and we should definitely like to do it with EasyJet as well,” he said.
“It could be in the future a low-cost alliance. We’re the only one flying long-haul, so it’s a different structure.
“Ryanair, EasyJet or Wizz Air fly to a lot of cities we don’t even know how to spell the names of,” said Kjos, joking about the extensive routes to smaller European cities.
The airline said talks were limited to European partners, and it is not currently working with any US ultra-low cost carriers like Spirit Airlines or Frontier Airlines on similar partnerships.
“But there is of course a potential opportunity in the future, especially as some low-cost airlines connect well with our route network,” an airline spokesman said.
Norwegian last year received approval from the US Department of Transportation for an operating certificate to allow it to fly from EU destinations to the US.
Norwegian will be the first airline to receive the first new generation Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in May, the first of six to be delivered this year as part of a 100-strong order.
Norwegian plans to use the longer-range twinjet to connect new US bases in Providence, Rhode Island, and Newburgh north of New York City to European destinations.
The 737 MAX aircraft will not have the seat-back inflight entertainment screens that it uses on its twin-aisle Boeing 787 Dreamliners but they will feature free high-speed internet access, Kjos said