Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Transatlantic flying: Wow throws a curve-ball (economist.com)
47 points by pyronite on Nov 12, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 18 comments

It's worth underlining just how hard the American carriers have been fighting against Norwegian and WOW under every excuse they can think of: "unfair" competition, spurious safety concerns, labor laws, strong-arming airports into denying them landing spots, etc. My favorite example of chutzpah was claiming that lower fares are "not in the public interest" (...because what's good for AA is good for America, right?).


In general, international flights to the US remain remarkably restricted and regulated. Foreign carriers aren't allowed to transport passengers within the country, transit without a visa is completely impossible, etc. Compare this to the EU and (soon) even South-East Asia, where anybody can fly anywhere they wish, as long as they fulfill standard safety requirements.

Yeah, there's a school of thought that competition, fares, and cabin service would all improve on American carriers if we allowed fifth-freedom flights within the U.S. Imagine if you could buy a seat on the Qantas 747 JFK-LAX — why would anyone ever prefer AA/B6/DL?

On the flip side, things for travelers might also get worse, or even more "low costy", if we had domestic fifth-freedom flights. In order to compete with European low-cost carriers, Lufthansa migrated a lot of their intra-Europe flights to low-cost affiliate Germanwings, whose travelers don't get the same perks or lounge access as people on normal LH flights. This has been kinda a pain.

But competition can be good. One nice perk of the Norwegian Air incursion into the transatlantic market has been the ultra-cheap Star Alliance retaliation fares to Northern Europe airports that DY serves. There are some amazing $500–$600 round trip fares from either coast to OSL, and you can turn them into a trip to "anywhere in Europe" by using stopovers wisely.

This article mentions that the Azores are another potential hub for low-cost carriers but doesn't mention that SATA (S4) really does publish some dirt cheap fares to Europe, BOS-PDL-LIS at like $300ish round trip, albeit on a sketchy A310 aircraft with low-cost service.

Can you point me in the direction of the $500–$600 round trip fares from either coast to OSL?

Is there a good website to find deals like that?

Here's a JFK/OSL roundtip for $397: https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=JFK;t=OSL;d=2014-11... (If the link doesn't work, it's an outbound Friday November 28, return Tuesday December 2, on Norwegian 7002 and Norwegian 7001.) This may be a Thanksgiving-related dip that makes it extra-low, but it's not much higher on some other dates nearby.

When you go to buy the ticket, the price may not match, so be aware of that. I think it's usually right, though. I bought a similar flight at a similar price, so I can sort of vouch that it's not some garbage quote. Google Flights is pretty good for this, at least if you're willing to tinker with the dates and cities until you find the magic spot. They have a little bar chart of the prices, so you can look at surrounding dates and find better deals. I don't know if I'm just doing it wrong, but the other flight search sites I've tried sometimes can't find the deals on Google, even when I search specifically.

Also, consider booking on www.norwegian.no for probably ~$30 savings, but it's only in Norwegian, so if you can't read it confidently, maybe that's a little too crazy.

Well, the gold standard is to find fares (expertflyer.com will help you out here) then find inventory that matches the fares.

United has a live $69 base fare K fare from EWR-OSL; find inventory to match and you're good to go. ITA Matrix (matrix.itasoftware.com) will help you do a fairly broad search, like "departure date within 1 month of X day and total journey length Y--Z days."

If you don't have the time for that stuff, follow the folks at theflightdeal.com, who as near as I can tell have software scraping fares on a few hundred key routes and make blog posts when they see particularly low fares; see e.g. http://www.theflightdeal.com/2014/10/31/united-466-newark-os... .

The SFO-OSL $512 fare was posted in March; don't think it's still valid, http://www.theflightdeal.com/2014/03/07/united-512-san-franc... .

http://www.norwegian.com has many of them on their site. They ran some $500 round trip from San Francisco to Oslo a few months back and $440 from Ft. Lauderdale.

The only thing I don't like about the ultra-low-cost carriers is that, much like everything else in life, the edges squeeze out the middle. Having dirt cheap fares with a lot of add-ons and annoyances (most of the flight being an ad, for instance) on the one side and high-cost, luxury flying on the other seems to remove the I-don't-want-to-be-hassled-but-also-not-fly-in-the-front fares.

Actually the standard US airline flying experience is already not much better (if at all) than the European budget one in terms of nickel and diming, it just costs more.

This amazed me as someone coming from Europe last year to the US — even on carriers like United and US Airways you get only about as much as you do on European low-cost airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir.

I flew to Oslo earlier this week from Glasgow (via London Heathrow), on British Airways. I got:

* Hold luggage.

* A sandwich on the ~2h flight from LHR–OSL (and a biscuit on the ~1:30 flight from GLA–LHR).

* Tea and a soft drink on both flights.

This is the sort of level of service I'm used to being included in the ticket price on relatively short flights — to find no major American carrier does this amazed me. It's also worthwhile noting that compared with low cost airlines like EasyJet and Norwegian, British Airways is typically around the same price in my experience once you add-on the above to the base fare of the others. (RyanAir is cheaper, but does so by strong-arming minor airports into charging them next to nothing, which results in them flying to relatively distant airports.)

British Airways does offer quite a competitive service. Now that Willie Walsh has stopped IAG bleeding cash from the acquisition of Iberia (an airline desperately in debt) they're turning a healthy profit for an airline - a complete parallel universe to what is happening at AA.

Sometimes competition with lower costs lead to a race to the bottom in quality where you cannot even buy anything of the former quality even at higher prices. You will see carriers nickel and dime you everything that was previously included.

Good. that's probably an indication that what most people really want is to get from point A to point B as quickly and cheaply as possible.

This already happens, every time I sit through United's forced-ads talking about how "I saved up to $100 on checked bag fees". (All to promote their crappy Chase partnership.) Still, pretty cheeky to rub the baggage fees in people's faces, I think.

Or, United not carrying amaretto on some flights, or having the nerve to charge $6 a drink for it in the lounges.'

Spirit's even worse.

Well, airlines tend to go bankrupt quite often. The seate are smaller than ever, and for the past few years I won't even consider the food. I'm a little tired of the race to the bottom.

All I need is WOW to throw in a $100 upgrade that includes a shuttle from KEF to the Blue Lagoon[1] for a quick hot water wallow to take the pain out of sitting in a cramped seat for a few hours, then back on the bus and onto another plane for the onward leg. Transatlantic flying would be a whole lot more tolerable.

[1] http://www.bluelagoon.com/ - no, not a natural geothermal spring, but no less relaxing for it.

What a wonderful idea, that place is great... I can't imagine how nice that would be after two 5 hour legs.

Rather than finding a globe I'd rather just look at the routes described in the article on some sort of online great circle mapper.

I just tried a couple from a quick search but wasn't impressed with their interfaces. Anyone care to recommend a good online tool with this functionality?

Try gcmap.com and choose polar-aspect orthographic:

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=BER-KEF-BOS;NRT-HEL-CDG&MS=wls&... (Berlin to Boston via Iceland; Tokyo to Paris via Helsinki)

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact