Traditional U.S. airlines used to only have to worry about competition from low-cost carriers on domestic routes. But another European budget airline is headed to Chicago, wooing thrifty travelers willing to travel light.
Fornebu, Norway-based Norwegian Air initially will offer four flights a week, starting at $174, from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and London. The return leg is more expensive, at about $232. Tickets are expected to go on sale Wednesday for flights scheduled to begin March 25.
Norwegian — no relation to the cruise line — is one of a handful of low-cost European airlines that have begun flying across the Atlantic. Iceland’s Wow Air is expected to begin flying from O’Hare to the airline’s Icelandic hub in Reykjavik July 13.
The advertised one-way fares can be eye-popping, but many travelers will need to factor in added fees — on Norwegian, the cheapest coach seats include a carry-on bag, but not much else.
Pre-ordering meals and choosing a seat for a long international flight each cost $45, and checking a single bag from New York to London, for instance, costs $45 online or $65 at the airport. Snacks and drinks, travel blankets and headphones carry fees as well, though those extras can be bundled to save.
Those services are included for passengers in Norwegian’s Premium Cabin, where the cheapest initial one-way Chicago to London airfares start at $579.
Charging separately for amenities some airlines include in a ticket lets passengers pay for perks they want and skip those they don’t, said Norwegian spokesman Anders Lindstrom.
Norwegian currently is limited by the size of its fleet while waiting for aircraft on order to be delivered, but plans to introduce daily Chicago-to-London flights within a few months of the first flights, Lindstrom said. Eventually, the airline also likely will add service to other European cities, he said.
Norwegian also announced its first flights from Austin, Texas, and new routes in Boston and Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday. The airline now operates flights from 15 U.S. airports to cities in Denmark, France, Ireland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the French Caribbean.