Bad news for cheap-flight hunters: Norwegian Air Shuttle, reputed for its bargain-basement fares for transatlantic flights, has canceled its long-haul routes for good. In the latest pandemic-induced airline shakeup, the Scandinavian budget carrier has restructured to focus solely on short-haul routes in Europe, ending its golden era of highly affordable U.S.-to-Europe flights that sometimes cost less than $200 round-trip.
Like many other airlines, Norwegian has been struggling throughout the coronavirus pandemic—it's currently several billion dollars in debt. By slashing its long-haul routes and selling off its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners, which have been grounded since March 2020, the airline hopes to reduce its debt significantly.
“Our focus is to rebuild a strong, profitable Norwegian so that we can safeguard as many jobs as possible," Norwegian CEO Jacob Schram said in a statement. "We do not expect customer demand in the long-haul sector to recover in the near future, and our focus will be on developing our short-haul network as we emerge from the reorganization process."
Norwegian rose to instant international stardom when it launched its transatlantic routes in 2013, quickly becoming beloved by budget travelers for its shiny new aircraft and friendly service. It also had a solid premium economy product—for roughly the same price as an economy ticket on a major airline, travelers could enjoy an angled-flat seat with meal service.
One of the long-lasting impacts of Norwegian's long-haul routes was its overall impact on transatlantic fares—it created a highly competitive market, forcing the major airlines to lower their rates. When international travel resumes following the pandemic, it'll be interesting to see how pricing will be affected without Norwegian's cheap flights.
For now, Norwegian will continue to operate its fleet of 50 narrow-body aircraft, offering competitively priced domestic flights in Norway and short-haul international flights throughout Europe. It even has plans to expand its fleet to 70 aircraft by 2022.
"By focusing our operation on a short-haul network, we aim to attract existing and new investors, serve our customers, and support the wider infrastructure and travel industry in Norway and across the Nordics and Europe,” said Schram.