’s large fleet expansion plans are causing European low-fare carriers to question their rival’s strategy.
Norwegian on Jan. 26 placed orders for 222and narrowbodies (22 , 100 737MAXs and 100 Airbus ) and reserved rights for 150 more.
The deal “certainly makes us think,” saysCEO Carolyn McCall. “We’re really working out what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.” EasyJet is grappling with “what does it mean for us,” she acknowledges.
CEO Michael O’Leary says the deal is “a very strange one,” but he sees it creating problems for the Norwegian carrier as it struggles to absorb all the aircraft into its fleet and fund the growth. O’Leary, who is quickly dismissive of rivals, says Norwegian “has all the smell of an Mk. 2,” pointing to the decision by both to buy long-haul aircraft (Boeing ) and Norwegian to acquire more narrowbodies.
Air Berlin also initially focused on low-fare operations before eyeing the long-haul market. The airline has been struggling financially and recently was effectively saved from near-insolvency only by' decision to take a 29% stake in the carrier.
O’Leary argues that Norwegian has “quite a decent niche” right now and could benefit from the demise of Scandinavian Airlines, but he questions whether the airline will succeed further afield in Europe.
McCall similarly wonders, “Does this mean they’re going to try and be a pan-European player or not?”
The move, however, is not likely to put Ryanair off efforts to make inroads into the Scandinavian market. While the carrier’s immediate focus is more on Central Europe, Scandinavia is likely a target soon after, O’Leary suggests.