Norwegian Air is a carrier that’s been causing a bit of havoc in the US, flying very cheaply between the US and Europe. They have new planes being delivered and, from the reports I’ve read, a decent in-flight product including things like free Wifi.
Now, they’ve announced service to the Caribbean from the East coast of the United States. And, even though it’s only two routes, it’s kind of a big deal. This is a European low-cost carrier coming across the pond to compete directly with US carriers on their own soil.
They’ll be spinning up service to two Caribbean destinations initially this winter from JFK, Boston and BWI:
- Guadeloupe (PTP)
- Martinique (FDF)
Guadeloupe is currently served on a nonstop basis by American Airlines out of Miami and Air Canada from Montreal. Short of that, you’re hopping from one island to another to get there via carriers like Air France or Seaborne.
Martinique is pretty much the same, with American operating RJ service out of Miami and Air Canada serving it out of Montreal.
There isn’t much in the way of chain hotels (I actually couldn’t find any) at either destination, but there appear to be some beautiful properties on both islands (and no Marriotts to skew the TripAdvisor rankings). Some might say that makes these undesirable destinations, but the Caribbean is a bit of a different bird. There are plenty of people in the Northeast who get skittish when the weather turns cold. They just want to go somewhere warm with a nice beach, and many of them are on a budget.
Norwegian’s press release says they’ll be introducing fares in the $79-$99 one-way range. We don’t know how many seats will be offered at those prices, but it’s fair to say there will be a decent number of seats cheaper than the $700-$900 range I’m seeing for fares in the cold months right now. I’m sure there will be companies offering vacation packages at resorts down there to make cheap trips available to many.
Seth notes that the airline will establish a base in the islands for the 3 new 737-800s serving these routes. There’s not a lot of down time for these planes (roughly one extra plane I’m guessing), and I don’t think they have anything else operating out of JFK on a 737-800, so IRROPS should give travelers on a tight schedule some caution. Assuming a rotation of these planes between different Northeast airports (3X at JFK, 2x each at Boston and BWI), a bad storm may have the airline choosing which city to serve on a given day. I may be missing something there, but I don’t think I am.
But, the bottom line here is competition is great for consumers. And, even though there isn’t a ton of competition to serve these cities, there’s absolutely competition between the airlines to transport leisure travelers to the Caribbean in the winter. So, this could easily challenge someone like JetBlue to price other islands out of JFK cheaper if they start seeing empty seats.
Low prices are good for those that live in the Northeast. While I’m not sure I’ll be booking one of these for the winter out of BWI, I’ll absolutely be researching these fares when they come out for a short winter trip. You should, too.