North Atlantic low cost airline opportunities - and challenges

Premium Analysis

In early Nov-2021 the US lifted its ban on non-essential arrivals by European nationals. However, the North Atlantic recovery remains somewhat cautious. North Atlantic seat numbers are at 64% of the equivalent week of 2019, versus 72% for all of Europe and 88% for all of North America (week commencing 22-Nov-2021).

Low cost operators, led by Norwegian, had established a noticeable presence on the North Atlantic in the years before the coronavirus pandemic. LCC seat share grew from almost nothing in 2013 to more than 8% in 2018, before overexpansion proved fatal to WOW air and prompted Norwegian to cease long haul operations.

In 2021 LCCs have less than 1%, divided between WestJet, French Bee and the new entrant JetBlue. The airline start-ups Norse Atlantic and PLAY also plan to enter the North Atlantic in the coming months.

Meanwhile, the seat share of the immunised JVs is up from 72% in 2018 to 79% in 2021 (albeit a share of a much smaller market).

Low cost airlines face a significant challenge, and opportunity, to re-establish their North Atlantic share.

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