Air Travel: Potential Bidding War Over Norwegian; Merger in the Caribbean

Norwegian Air

A potential bidding war over Norwegian and a big merger in the Caribbean lead this week’s air travel news to keep on your radar. 

This week Norwegian head Bjorn Kos told The Daily Telegraph that “various” airlines were circling the low-cost carrier. The move follows IAG’s surprise bid to grab a 5 percent stake in Norwegian, which the airline group indicated could lead to a takeover of the airline. IAG is the parent company of British Airways and Iberia. Norwegian has been operating as a low-cost carrier since 2002; however, over the past few years it has launched a number of transatlantic routes to the United States, bringing the low-cost model to flights to Europe

In other acquisitions news, this week Silver Airways and Seaborne Airlines announced that Silver’s acquisition of Seaborne’s business and assets has successfully closed, creating an independent airline to serve the Caribbean, Florida and beyond. The merger of the two airlines’ operating functions, joint branding and streamlining of the guest experience is expected to occur next year. The combined airline will continue operating Silver’s route network in the Bahamas, Florida, and beyond under the Silver Airways banner and Seaborne’s route network throughout Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands under the Seaborne name. 

Aviation officials continued to grapple with the implications of a deadly emergency landing of a Southwest Airlines flight this week. Authorities in the United States and Europe announced new inspection procedures aimed at identifying engine fan blades that could conceivably break off in flight. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive to all airlines operating CFM56-7B engines, the same model as the one that failed in last week’s incident. The directive orders airlines to perform an ultrasonic inspection for cracks in the fan blade dovetail, and to remove cracked fan blades from service. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued a similar directive. 

Also this week, JetBlue announced a new codeshare agreement with JetSuiteX. For travel starting May 1, 2018, JetBlue will place its "B6" airline code on JetSuiteX Air-operated flights between West Coast destinations, offering new point-to-point routes for JetBlue customers. This includes flights between Burbank, CA (BUR); Concord, CA (CCR); Oakland, CA (OAK); and Las Vegas (LAS), and marks the first codeshare between a semi-private public charter operator (JetSuiteX) and a major national carrier, JetBlue said. 

JetBlue also announced its return to Ontario International Airport in Ontario, CA, this week, starting with nonstop service to New York. The airline had operated at the airport from July 2000 to September 2008. 

In other flight news this week Delta announced it is adding a second daily flight from New York - JFK to Nassau, the Bahamas, beginning October 1, 2018; new daily service to Kingston, Jamaica, effective December 20; and new Saturday-only service to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, beginning December 22.

In Europe, Eurowings, which is part of the Lufthansa Group, announced it will kick off its new, nonstop service between New York - JFK and Düsseldorf, Germany, on April 28. The airline will fly six times per week on the new route, every day except Tuesdays, on an Airbus A340-300 in a three-class configuration. 

On April 26, Iberia began the only nonstop service between San Francisco and Madrid, Spain. The thrice-weekly direct service is operated on an Airbus A330-200

In onboard product news, this week All Nippon Airways (ANA) offered a sneak peek at its new Airbus A380, which launches in spring 2019. The aircraft will be introduced on the airline’s Tokyo - Honolulu service, and will have eight First Class seats, 56 Business Class seats and 73 Premium Economy seats on the upper deck, marking the first time ANA has offered First Class on this route. The main deck will have 383 Economy Class seats, including 60 couch seats. Aimed at passengers traveling with small children, each couch is comprised of three or four seats and passengers are able to lie on the seats by folding up the leg rests. Passengers will also receive a dedicated mattress. 

Starting May 1, United Airlines is rolling out a number of new food and beverage options on its Choice Menu, including egg and chicken chorizo tacos for breakfast and a barbecue chicken sandwich for lunch and dinner. On United's premium transcontinental flights between Los Angeles and New York/Newark and between San Francisco and Boston and San Francisco and New York/Newark, customers will also enjoy new dessert and beverage selections. United will also become the first airline to offer Stella Artois aboard domestic and international flights this summer, the airline reported this week. 

Finally, this week United announced it would open its new United Polaris Lounge at San Francisco International Airport on April 30. Located in the International Terminal near Gate G92, the lounge will offer space to dine and relax, as well as charging stations, five private daybeds and eight shower suites, in addition to personal valet services. 

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