$10 fares to Europe? Maybe, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary says

Will Ryanair ever fly to the United States? Above, a photo of one of the airline's planes. Notice the ads? Photo: Oscar von Bonsdorf, via  Creative Commons.

Will Ryanair ever fly to the United States? Above, a photo of one of the airline’s planes. Notice the ads? Photo: Oscar von Bonsdorf, via Creative Commons.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said his ultra discount Irish airline could someday offer 10 Euro one-way fares between major European cities and Boston and New York, according to the Irish Independent newspaper. That’s a bit more than $13.60 one-way at current exchange rates. (Flights to Europe could be priced even lower – at $10 one way.)

O’Leary has a habit of making outrageous statements — he has ruminated on one-pilot airplanes and pay toilets on board — but he has also shown himself to be a shrewd businessman. His Ryanair, on which you pay for just about everything, from food to seat assignments to speaking with a human at most points in the traveling process, has been wildly successful.

So if the man says he might offer 10 Euro flights between Europe and the U.S., it’s worth listening. Ryanair doesn’t yet have the fleet for overwater flights — it has about 300 737s –but that could change. A much smaller competitor within Europe, Norwegian Air Shuttle, has recently started trans-Atlantic flights and will soon start service between L.A. and London, Oslo, Cophenhagen and Stockholm.

O’Leary said it could be five years before the airline buys the planes it needs, according to the Independent.

So how will Ryanair make money with such cheap fares? For one, there will be relatively few 10 Euro tickets available on each flight. For another, the carrier will continue to charge for everything. So unless you bring no luggage, don’t want food or drink and have no interested in interacting with a human, you’ll pay far more than than 10 Euro or $10. Also, O’Leary signaled, Ryanair could put some sort of premium cabin on its flights. Passengers in those seats would pay more,  giving the carrier some extra profit.

“We can make money on 99 cent fares in Europe – not every seat will be €10 of course, there will also need to be a very high number of business or premium seats,” O’Leary said, according to the Independent.

O’Leary has said that one of the issues with trans-Atlantic flights is the fact that there’s a relative shortage of the planes Ryanair would need to buy. Earlier this month, the website Skift quoted O’Leary as saying that some Middle East airlines — mainly Etihad and Emirates — were buying up so many new airplanes that it has been difficult for other carriers to get them at reasonable prices.

“But the more you look at the backlog of Boeing and Airbus deliveries in long-haul and the crazy scale of the order book they have primarily from the Middle Eastern carriers, I think for the moment, I don’t see there being an opportunity to pick up a fleet at a reasonable pricing,” O’Leary said, according to Skift.

Also, according to Skift, O’Leary signaled that it likely would be a Ryanair subsidiary, and not the main carrier, that operates any overseas flights.

What do you think? Will Ryanair ever fly trans-Atlantic routes? And if it does, will there really be 10 Euro or $10 fares?

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Norwegian Air Shuttle gets OK to register as Irish company

The planes may say Norwegian, but this airline will now be based in Ireland. Photo: Norwegian.

The planes may say Norwegian, but this airline will now be based in Ireland. Photo: Norwegian.

You might remember my story on Norwegian Air Shuttle from last month. I reported that this new discount airline planned to offer super cheap fares on nonstop flights from Los Angeles to London, Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm using new Boeing 787s.

There was only one catch. Norway has high costs and a lot of regulation, so Norwegian wanted to register itself in Ireland, where it could operate more freely. As another bonus, Norwegian says being in Ireland will give the carrier more traffic rights to serve more cities. This probably means Norwegian will be able to start up a bunch of new routes without getting special permission each time from regulators.

US airlines and a major U.S. pilots union called ALPA opposed the registration change, saying it was not fair for competition. They said a Norwegian company should be based in Norway — not Ireland. (ALPA is still hoping the U.S. government will ban Norwegian from serving the United States under the Irish scheme, and has set up a website to state its case.)

But according to a release I received today, Norwegian got the OK from the Irish government to set up there.

“With this permit, the administration of Norwegian’s long-haul operation will be relocated to Norwegian Air International Limited (NAI),” company officials wrote. “The company has built its managerial and all mandatory regulatory functions in Dublin. Its aircraft operation will now be governed by the Irish authorities. The Irish regulatory authorities are considered to be among the best in the world.”

Read on for the full release.

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Will Norwegian Air Shuttle succeed in the trans-Atlantic market?

Norwegian begins flying to Los Angeles in March. But will it succeed? Photo: The Norwegian Air Shuttle.

Norwegian begins flying to Los Angeles in March. But will it succeed? Photo: The Norwegian Air Shuttle.

Can Norwegian Air Shuttle — the discount trans-Atlantic airline preparing to start new service this spring between Europe and Los Angeles — succeed? This was a question I asked in a newspaper story published over the weekend.

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Norwegian Air Shuttle tries the U.S. market, and other stories from the week in aviation

Norwegian, a European discount airline, will soon fly from LAX to London, Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen. But can it make money?

Norwegian, a European discount airline, will soon fly from LAX to London, Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen. But can it make money?

What’s going on in the world of aviation? I’m glad you asked.

Here are some stories I have enjoyed recently.

Emirates and Virgin America will now be frequent flier program partners, writes Ben Mutzabaugh of Today in the Sky.

Norwegian Air Shuttle is trying to be the first major European low-cost carrier to operate a large transatlantic route network. The airline, which is taking delivery of a bunch of Boeing 787s will, by next summer, fly from Los Angeles to Oslo, London, Stockholm and Copenhagen. But will this strategy work? Brett Snyder, who runs the blog crankyflier.com, says he is skeptical. 

By January 1, airports are supposed to take over, from the Transportation Security Administration, the job of guarding terminal exit doors. Bart Jansen of USA Today reports that this change will save the TSA  $88.1 million per year. But many airport executives are not thrilled about this change.

Southwest started by offering double points system wide for passengers during a slow late fall period. United soon followed, with a double miles promotion.” Isn’t it great when competitive forces actually work in favor of consumers?” asks Tim Winship of frequentflier.com.

Delta and United and dueling for West Coast customers, and that’s generally good news for passengers, writes Chris McGinnis, editor of The Bay Area Traveler. 

For several years now, major airlines have tried to artificially keep capacity low in order to hold lower fares. That strategy has worked, and it’s a big part of the reason why most major airlines have been reporting recent profits. But it may not last forever. Edward Russell of Flight Global writes that airlines are adding capacity, especially in the West. 

The A350  hasn’t flown a single passenger flight yet, but the European conglomerate is already considering stretching it, writes Jens Flottau of Aviation Week. 

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Norwegian plans new (cheap) flights between Los Angeles and London

We have some good news for budget travelers heading to London. Norwegian, a discount European airline, will fly twice weekly next summer between Los Angeles and London Gatwick Airport, according to airlineroute.net.

The Los Angeles-London market is very competitive — United, American, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Air Zealand fly it — but Norwegian is likely going after a different, more cost conscious customer. It’ll be flying brand new Boeing 787 aircraft, some of the most efficient airplanes in the sky.

Norwegian has been a low-cost airline in Europe for about a decade now, and it has decided it can bring that model to overwater operations. It offers no frills service, and customers have to pay for just about everything, including food. But fares are usually much cheaper than on other airlines.

On this route, which starts in July 2014 and operates Sundays and Wednesdays, Norwegian will be using Gatwick, a secondary London airport. Most overseas flights from the major airlines fly into Heathrow airport.

Norwegian must like what it sees in L.A. It is also planning new service in 2014 between LAX and three Scandinavian cities – Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo.

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