The low-cost business model is spreading
A $400 round-tripper might not be the new normal for Europe yet, but give it time. Analysts say that Norwegian’s rush to the bottom has prompted other airlines to slash airfares to Europe. “The business model is spreading,” Gary Leff, an independent airline analyst, says by email. “And we're going to see it even more especially from the East Coast to Western Europe with small aircraft that can handle longer flights.”
Leff notes that it isn’t just Norwegian putting pressure on prices. WOW Air, the low-cost Icelandic carrier founded in 2011, offers rates similar to Norwegian’s, while Primera, an airline based in Latvia, officially launched just last week by hawking flights to Europe for as little as $99 one-way. Meanwhile British Airways’ new discount sister-airline, Level, has been undercutting competitors for flights out of Britain.
The competition has gotten so fierce, says cheap-flights maven Scott Keyes, that it has pulled legacy carriers into the fray, to defend a territory they once all but monopolized. “It's not a question of whether Norwegian will reduce industry-wide fares to Europe in the future; it already has,” he says. “Nowadays, legacy airlines offer European fares in the $300s or $400s round-trip at least once a month. That is almost singularly due to competition from low-cost carriers like Norwegian and WOW.”