Norwegian could be breakthrough for Aldergrove
Months ago I had not even heard of Norwegian Air.
But when I travelled to America for the presidential election I quickly found that it had some of the best one-way fares – and various options from London Gatwick to several airports in the United States.
The obvious beauty of a one-way fare is that you can keep open your travel options if you are unaware exactly where and when you will be returning. As recently as 20 years ago one-way fares were almost impossible to buy unless you were prepared to pay much more than the cheapest return deals.
For example, I flew out to California in the early 1990s for around £300 return. A one-way would have cost about £800.
It was a mad system.
Budget airlines have shattered all that.My single on Norwegian from Gatwick to Orlando cost £179 all in.
As it happens, my movements in America were such that Norwegian also offered by far the best return option – my return was from San Juan (Puerto Rico) to Gatwick cost £151 all in.
The airline is one of the best I have used.
It is budget but not threadbare. The planes were new, and clean and pleasant but you have to pay for every single extra including a checked bag.
This suits me because I often bring a single carry-on filled to capacity.
On the outbound I did not realise I could not buy a hot meal on the plane without pre-ordering and had to make do with snacks. On the return I was prepared and had a feast in the airport before boarding.
For a traveller like me who wants to go no frills and spend money at the destination, not en route, the arrival of Norwegian if particularly sweet.
But it is good for Northern Ireland as a whole.
I would hope that an airline that seemed to be so well run will survive as an entity.
But it also seems to be the first time that an airline has tried to make use of our geographical position as one of the closest places in Europe to north America.
Aldergrove is such an obvious hub.
As I have written on this page before, I believe that a lack of vision among policy makers has missed the opportunity to make Belfast International a single airport hub for Northern Ireland, with motorway connections to the main points in Ulster.
Then we might have an airport to rival Dublin, Europe’s fastest growing in 2016.