Last week I returned to Barbados after taking a rather tedious, protracted but inexpensive route from Gatwick to Miami with Norwegian Airlines and onwards with the late American Airlines flight into Grantley Adams arriving around 11 pm. It is not recommended for the faint of heart, even if all involved flights leave and arrive on-time, which sadly they did not, being delayed over two hours past scheduled departure at Gatwick awaiting connecting passengers.
But as stated, the price is right.
For some time I have been trying to persuade our policymakers to tempt Norwegian Airlines into the Southern Caribbean with a non-stop or triangle route service from Continental Europe, preferably Scandinavia, where they have a considerable presence, to hopefully partially regain a significant market we had in the long distant past. Up until this flight, I had not personally flown with Norwegian, or in fact one of the 37, B787 ‘Dreamliner’ aircraft they operate.
Often stated in media outlets, Norwegian ‘does it differently’ and that is certainly the case in my personal experience. Unless you book (and pay) for a whole host of ‘extras’, prior to flying, which includes even the basics like a bottle of water or snack, everything else can be ordered and paid for whilst in your assigned seat.
Frankly, after five decades of flying in commercial aircraft, I have never seen a cabin crew work so hard. Up and down the aisles throughout the ten plus hours of the flight, mostly delivering what appeared non- alcoholic drinks and many would class as convenience food. My first thought was, does this work for them and what percentage of their overall turnover is made up of onboard sales?
As a low-cost carrier, they have built an enviable reputation, carrying a quoted 37 million passengers in 2018, with a fleet of around 170 aircraft while boasting an average age of only 3.7 years, servicing over 150 destinations worldwide.
This phenomenal growth though, has not been without its challenges. Among its new fleet are 18, B737 Max aircraft, which according to their own media releases, they do not expect to get back into service until as late as September this year.
Their B787 Dreamliner’s powered by Rolls Royce Trent 100 engines, which due to various reliability issues, making them ‘susceptible to cracks in the fan blades’ have resulted in up to one third of their own planes of this type having been grounded at any given time. Again, according to media reports these engines will all be replaced over a given time period.
Under the company’s recent change of their Chief Executive Officer and new management appointments, including former CCO (Chief Commercial Officer) of JetBlue, Marty St.George, the company plans to focus on profitability, rather that growth, at least for the foreseeable future. But that should not blinker our hopes that they may be persuaded to return to the Caribbean, given the type of aircraft operated and the utilization our region offers to European based carriers.