Air France-KLM's latest strategic project, 'Trust Together', follows its Transform 2015 and Perform 2020 programmes. In fact, it complements Perform 2020, rather than replacing it, at least until fuller details are announced in 2Q2017. After years of financial under-performance and market share erosion by Gulf airlines on long haul and LCCs on short/medium haul, CEO Jean Marc Janaillac aims to regain the offensive with this project.
But, in the absence of a substantial change of heart by the group's unions, there is little to suggest any "new" initiative will have a greater impact than its predecessors. The mere fact that Mr Janaiiac is forced to deny that the new long haul airline, codenamed "Boost", will be positioned as "low cost" is a clear enough indication of the task ahead. Indeed, to consider establishing anything else would be irrelevant in today's world.
Presumably so as not to rock the union boat plans are for only an ineffectual 10 aircraft by 2020. Just as with its short/medium haul LCC, Transavia, the scale and scope of the new long haul airline are likely to be subject to negotiation with Air France pilots. Transavia itself will now focus on routes from France and the Netherlands, implying an end to the troubled plans for Transavia Europe.
Norwegian plans to add US routes to its Edinburgh base, a development considered in part 1 of this report, adding to its growing list of European long haul bases. However, its Edinburgh-US routes will use new Boeing 737MAX-8 aircraft – its first deployment of narrowbodies for long haul. It has also ordered 30 Airbus A321neoLRs for long haul use. Narrowbodies open up new possibilities for routes between the UK (or other European markets) and the US east coast.
Norwegian also plans to add non-US destinations to its UK long haul network, with details expected during the course of 2017. Norwegian's flexibility to develop its long haul operations from the UK would be improved by the grant of a US foreign carrier permit to its UK-registered subsidiary, Norwegian Air UK.
Norwegian has had to surmount many obstacles to build and grow its global network – which may also include Latin America in 2017, when it will accelerate long haul ASK growth to 60%. However its rapid expansion, currently driven mainly by long haul growth, has led to a rapid increase in debt, and is likely to weigh on unit revenue. Norwegian's undoubted strategic innovation can only be sustained if it is financially successful.