It’s become a familiar business model. A Northern European airline launches service to Boston with ridiculously low promotional fares and a pricing system that adds ancillary fees for any carry-on larger than a pocketbook, or charges passengers for anything more than a cup of water.
Norse Atlantic Airways, based out of Norway, is the latest long-haul, low-cost carrier to land at Logan. It begins flights from Boston to London Gatwick on Sept. 2 with one-way fares starting at $169. But Norse CEO Bjorn Tore Larsen said his airline has more going for it than bargain prices. He pointed to two consumer-friendly features that set Norse apart.
“We’re not a hub-and-spoke airline,” Larsen said on a video call from Norway. “We’re mainly a point-to-point operator. So simplicity is the key here. We fly direct.”
In aviation-speak, hub-and-spoke refers to an airline that operates most flights out of a single hub. Play airlines, which services several European countries and also advertises bargain prices, has a single hub in Iceland. All of its flights land and take off from Keflavík. Operating point-to-point gives travelers direct flights.
Larsen said Norse’s other advantage is its aircraft. It has a fleet of 15 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Unlike other low-cost airlines, these planes have seat-back entertainment. The seats in its premium economy cabin have more legroom than any other airline’s premium product, according to Seat Guru. The pitch length (the distance between your seat and the same point on the seat in front of you) is 43 inches. Unfortunately, the extra legroom premium seats are not available for $169. They start at $296 and up. The pitch in economy is 31 to 32 inches, which is comparable to Delta Air Lines or American Airlines.
Larsen, whose background is in shipping, not aviation, started Norse in January 2021, when airlines weren’t looking to acquire new planes and the industry had gone on government life support.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a fleet of 15 super modern aircraft,” he said. “Some of them have never been in the air. I was able to lease them at historic low rates. No airline was looking to buy or lease new planes. That’s what inspired me to start the airline. It wasn’t something I was looking to do, but the opportunity presented itself.”
Larsen said he sees a market for the Logan-Gatwick route, which will run five days a week. United Airlines announced it will end its Logan to Heathrow route in October, so there is room in the market for an upstart, despite JetBlue’s introduction of a Boston-London route last year.
But with any low-cost airline, it all comes down to price and the sacrifices that you’re willing to make to save money. It’s also important to check the fees before you book. Going with the least expensive tier, which Norse calls Economy Light, means you’ll pay to bring a carry-on ($45) or to check a standard 50-pound suitcase ($75). Choosing a seat ranges from $5 to $120, depending on the flight and seat location. You can order a meal in advance of your flight for $20 to $30. Snacks and drinks start at $3.50.
Economy Classic allows you to bring a carry-on, a checked bag, and includes a meal, and has a lower ticket change fee. Those tickets are approximately $90 more each way than Economy Light, depending on demand and time of year.
If you travel very light and you don’t mind the potential of landing in a middle seat between strangers, it’s a good deal. If you’re tempted to try it, remember that airlines offer promotions when they’re entering a new market or starting a new route. Even with additional fees, Norse’s $169 introductory fares are still lower than many of its competitors.
OTHER NEW ROUTES OUT OF BOSTON
Delta will launch a direct flight between Boston and Mexico City beginning Dec. 21.
JetBlue will start direct service between Boston and Amsterdam beginning Sept. 20. The airline, which had previously announced service between Boston and Paris Charles de Gaulle would begin June 29, said the route will begin next summer instead.
Porter Airlines introduced a daily, direct flight between Boston and Ottawa in May.
Spirit Airlines is nearly doubling its flight options in Boston this summer. The airline added Charlotte and Dallas-Fort Worth in June. On July 5, the cost-conscious airline starts a daily nonstop from Boston to Los Angeles. On Aug. 9, it begins service to Houston and Phoenix.