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Smaller Cities Get European Flights And Bargain Fares Too

Norwegian will fly the Boeing 737 MAX on its new routes. Supplied photo.

Summer travel to Europe is about to get cheaper and more accessible for Americans living in out-of-the-way areas of the American northeast. Norwegian announced today new routes to the British Isles from airports near Hartford, Providence and New Windsor, New York.

If a flight to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival (Aug 4 – Aug 28) or Ireland’s Matchmaking Festival in Lisdoonvarna appeals, (Sept 1- Oct 1) consider this further incentive; introductory fares begin at $65 one way.

The trick to offering such low fares, according to airline CEO Bjorn Kjos, is in part, operating out of smaller airports.

“You fly out of low cost airports and into low cost airports and that takes away a portion of your expenses,” he told me.

Double digit fares won’t last of course, but even after the introductory prices are gone, expect bargains from the airline whose model of offering fewer frills on more fuel-efficient aircraft has helped make it one of the world’s fastest growing airlines.

Norwegian already offers 40 nonstop routes from U.S. gateway cities like New York, Oakland and L.A. to London, Paris, Scandinavia and the Caribbean. Its entry into the U.S. market in 2014 was not without controversy, however.

America’s big legacy carriers tried to block Norwegian at every step along the way of gaining a certificate to operate from the Department of Transportation. The U.S. airlines and employee unions claimed Norwegian was skirting labor laws and international treaties by opening a subsidiary in Ireland and hiring flight crews at lower salaries outside of Norway.

Norwegian points to the hundreds of jobs created in America as it opened routes between those U.S. gateways flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a super fuel efficient widebody.

“Norwegian is the foreign airline with most American crew members and we intend to grow and do exactly what Americans and the politicians want, establish more American jobs,” said Anne-Sissel Skånvik, a spokeswoman for the carrier.

Because it is unlikely that New York’s upstate Stewart International, Rhode Island’s TF Green or Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport will attract enough travelers to fill widebodies, the flights announced today will be on Boeing 737 MAX aircraft with seats for about 150.

Aer Lingus offers flights from Hartford to Dublin and connections to Europe. Christine Negroni photo

Connecting smaller cities to smaller cities is a new trend in air travel referred to as “hub-busting.” As I reported in The New York Times recently, the International Air Transport Association’s economist Brian Pearce said the global number of city pairs connected by air was 18,000 last year, a new record.

Tourism officials in Ireland, Scotland and England are anticipating a boost in tourism from these new American markets. But the knock on benefits could spread throughout Europe.

As Aer Lingus learned when it started flying between Hartford and Dublin last fall, once on the other side of the pond, a plethora of transportation options opens up many more destinations. That’s certain to be attractive to travelers in these smaller American cities, who until very recently, had a long drive to the airport before their overseas trip could even get underway.

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