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CHANGI Airport will have one more long-haul, low-cost player taking off when Norwegian launches flights to London's Gatwick from September, strengthening Singapore's position as a base for both short- and long-haul budget carriers.
The Singapore-London service will be operated by Norwegian's subsidiary, Norwegian UK, which will use its 344-seater Boeing 787-9 aircraft in a two-class configuration; namely, economy and premium. Norwegian will operate four weekly services, which will be bumped up to five times per week from the Northern Winter season (October to March).
Over the years, budget carriers have accounted for an increasing proportion of traffic at Changi Airport, and more long-haul routes are in the offing. Scoot, which is poised to commence flights to Athens from June, is expected to add other European points to its network down the line using its B787 aircraft. It is widely expected to focus on routes better-suited to low-cost operations vis-a-vis its premium parent airline, Singapore Airlines (SIA).
Changi Airport Group's chief executive, Lee Seow Hiang, said: "With changing consumer preferences and an improvement in aircraft technology, low-cost carriers have taken the opportunity to expand into the long-haul market. We will continue to work with our airline partners to exploit other such opportunities to grow their operations at Changi."
London is Changi's 14th busiest route, with over 1.2 million passengers travelling between Singapore and London last year. With the launch of this new service, the number of weekly flights from Singapore to London will go up to 50, translating to 11 per cent more one-way seats per week.
"Our transatlantic flights have shown the huge demand for affordable long-haul travel, so we are delighted to expand into new markets and offer our first route to Asia from the UK," said Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos. "Travel should be affordable for all, so adding Singapore to our growing UK network will give passengers even more choice for affordable, quality travel to a range of global destinations."
Passengers will be able to leverage Norwegian's network to connect onwards from London to other destinations in Europe as well as the United States. Similarly, travellers from the UK can connect at Changi to 120 destinations in South-east Asia and the South-west Pacific.
Currently, just a couple of airlines offer direct services between Singapore and London - namely, SIA and British Airways. (Garuda offers a direct flight between Singapore and London three times a week, but the return leg transits via Jakarta.) Other airlines with flights to London out of Singapore typically offer one-stop services via their respective hubs such as Abu Dhabi, Doha or Dubai.
"It's a relatively big market for just two non-stop competitors," said Centre for Aviation analyst Brendan Sobie. He reckons that Norwegian will be able to attract customers who generally purchase competitively-priced, one-stop flights, as well as passengers looking for a non-stop flight at a more affordable fare. Norwegian's promotional fares for the flights (starting Sept 28) will see one-way Singapore-London fares going at S$199 for economy class, while premium-class tickets start from S$839.
Norwegian could also launch more non-stop flights out of Singapore down the line. From Bangkok, it operates flights to three destinations in Scandanavia.