There might be a major new player offering flights to Panama from Europe. Low-budget airline Norwegian Air has indicated it is open to the idea of launching direct flights from London’s Gatwick Airport to Panama City.
A government delegation led by Vice Minister of Foreign Trade Juan Carlos Sosa recently met with Norwegian officials to discuss the route, according to CAPA, the Center for Aviation. Although nothing official was announced, the meeting was “very productive,” the government said in a press release.
This is big news for anybody familiar with Norwegian. The Oslo-based airline doesn’t just discount tickets, they offer rock bottom prices that force other airlines to respond. Norwegian offers roundtrip flights from Los Angeles to Barcelona for as low as $400. Sure, they play the budget airline game of charging more for luggage, reserved seats, and onboard food, but the planes are nice and the final price is still well-below traditional airlines.
Norwegian, the biggest low-cost airline in Europe, is considering using a 787 Dreamliner for the Panama route, according to CAPA. Panama is the second-largest market in the region, behind Mexico, but there are no direct flights from the U.K., CAPA notes.
A Norwegian flight makes sense. Norwegian has a hub at Gatwick, which it uses to serve 13 North American destinations, but only two in Latin America, Buenos Aires, and Rio de Janeiro. The list of European airlines currently offering flights to Panama includes Air Europa, Iberia, KLM, Air France, Turkish Airlines, and Lufthansa, but there is definitely a need for more choices and more routes, which will open the market to more European buyers and investors.
Norwegian has been going through growing pains and it’s currently restructuring its network, but expansion could resume by 2021, CAPA notes. “UK-Panama would seem to offer the characteristics that might appeal to Norwegian: it is underserved (with almost no low-cost carriers) and offers growth potential,” CAPA says.