Norse Atlantic Airways has expanded its initial fleet to support planned low-cost transatlantic services to 15 Boeing 787s following a deal to lease six used 787-9s from BOC Aviation. The start-up, backed by former Norwegian Air Shuttle executives including co-founder and former CEO Bjørn Kjos and co-founder and former chairman Bjørn Kise, is leasing the airliners for a duration of about 16 years per aircraft at what it described as “attractive interest and payment terms.” All six aircraft are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 TEN engines and are scheduled for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2021.
“We are pleased to extend our leasing agreements to include BOC Aviation as we increase our fleet and continue to prepare the company for takeoff,” said Norse founder and CEO Bjørn Tore Larsen in a stock exchange announcement on Monday.
Norse Atlantic had initially planned to operate its maiden flight in December, but executives are now considering deferring the start of its low-cost transatlantic services to next year amid continuing uncertainty over the recovery of demand. “Our launch will depend on Covid-related travel restrictions and demand for transatlantic travel. Based on today’s scenario, the first part of 2022 is most likely,” a Norse spokesperson told AIN on August 3.
Transatlantic travel has been crushed by the Covid-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions. The number of flights between Europe and North America in July was down 58 percent on 2019 levels, according to Eurocontrol data.
The BOC contract comes on top of a deal with Ireland's AerCap for six ex-Norwegian 787-9s and three 787-8s, with lease terms of approximately eight years for the 787-8s and approximately 12 years for the larger -9 aircraft. The AerCap agreement calls for deliveries to start in December with all aircraft arriving no later than the end of the first quarter of 2022.
As several of the 787s were used by Norwegian—Norwegian has abandoned long-haul flying—Norse Atlantic will keep the Norwegian configuration and offer economy and premium economy cabins, the spokesperson said. Norwegian’s former 787-9s were fitted with 344 seats, of which 35 in premium economy and 309 in standard economy; its 787-8 had 291 seats—32 in the premium cabin and 259 in the economy cabin.
Norse Atlantic has applied for an air operator certificate (AOC) in Norway and will apply for an AOC in the UK “shortly,” according to the spokesperson. The Norwegian AOC will give it access to traffic rights for routes between the European Union/ European Economic and the U.S. under the EU-U.S. open skies agreement, providing it obtains a U.S. foreign air carrier permit. The set-up with a Norwegian AOC and pledges to use only U.S. and European crew mark a divergence from the early Norwegian Air Shuttle model, which used an Irish AOC and crew partly sourced in Asia. This prompted labor unions and some Congressional lawmakers in the U.S. to accuse it of operating a so-called “flag-of-convenience” model and circumventing the EU/EEA-U.S. open skies agreement’s labor protections. To avoid similar disputes, Norse Atlantic in May reached a pre-hire agreement with the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA that guarantees job protections and the right to unionize for the airline’s future U.S.-based flight attendants.
In a further difference with Norwegian, which operated a short-haul, intra-European network with narrowbody aircraft to feed passengers into its widebody 787s flying the long-haul routes, Norse Atlantic Airways is focusing on point-to-point intercontinental routes only. The route network will initially span popular transatlantic destinations such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Paris, and Oslo.“We are primarily a point-to-point long-haul airline that will offer flights between the bigger cities that don’t necessarily require feed to be profitable,” the spokesperson asserted. “However, we may enter into [feeder] agreements with other airlines at a later stage.”
The company was established in February 2021 with its shares admitted to trading on Euronext Growth on the Oslo Stock Exchange in April.
This story was updated on August 3 with additional comments provided by Norse Atlantic Airways.