Norwegian Airlines’s expansion plans in Spain are now focusing on Madrid’s Barajas airport, where the low-cost airline wants to offer flights to Latin America. “Spain is a great market, everyone wants to come here,” said company founder and CEO Bjørn Kjos in Oslo.
The announcement represents the latest move in Norwegian’s ongoing tussle with Iberia. In recent months, each company has sought to chip away at the other’s market.
The IAG group, which includes British Airways, Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus, announced a month ago that it was creating a new brand, Level, to cover flights to the Americas from Barcelona’s El Prat airport, beginning in June.
The real competitors are the US airlines
Bjørn Kjos, CEO Norwegian
Before that, in September of last year, Norwegian had revealed that it would fly to Los Angeles and San Francisco from the Catalan capital. Level went beyond that, and started selling tickets to Buenos Aires and to the popular holiday destination of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic as well.
Then, this past Tuesday, Norwegian said it had asked for permits to fly to the capital of Argentina from several European cities, including Barcelona.
Not content with that, CEO Kjos is now planning to settle down in Iberia’s home turf of Madrid.
The air travel industry was initially skeptical about Norwegian’s expansion plans. Many experts questioned the company’s economic viability. But Kjos explained that average seat occupancy rates are around 90%, and that over half of all bookings from the United States to Barcelona are made by American citizens.
“The real competitors are the US airlines,” said the head of Norwegian.
Kjos also complained about the protectionism practiced by several countries with regard to airline policies. “Countries should stop protecting their flagship carriers,” he said, adding: “These restrictions have kept Norwegian out of interesting destinations in Asia.”
“We will use all the licenses that others don’t want to use,” he noted, alluding to the possibility that Iberia might discard some of its permits to fly to Japan.
English version by Susana Urra.