by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, November 15, 2017
It's been a tumultuous year for the Old Guard of the airline industry - from the collapse of Monarch to the Ryanair omnishambles, not to mention British Airways’ computer crash. And let us not forget the incident in which United violently dragged that man from his seat? An annus horribilis, indeed.
But amid all this, there's a new breed of low-cost carriers looking to take the world’s skies by storm.
Level, BA’s little sister, launched in March, promising £99 flights across the pond, while Primera Air, headquartered in Latvia, burst onto the UK scene with services to New York and Boston from Birmingham, and a raft of routes from London Stansted.
That’s not even the half of it. Introducing the low-cost airlines changing travel, one budget fare at a time.
How was its 2017? Nascent
The North American newcomer says it will sell its first 1,000 seats for $10 (£7.60), with standard rates closer to $100 (£76), or as its ceo Stan Gadek says, the price of a pair of jeans. “Jeans comes in all sizes, styles and prices, but these are going to be very affordable jeans,” he said.
Using new Boeing 737s, the airline is planning to focus first on a number of Canadian routes, including Nova Scotia and Ontario, and launch ticket sales next year, with flights beginning in the summer.
By 2019, Jetlines hopes it will be flying further afield, to the likes of Las Vegas and Orlando in the US, as well as Cancun, Mexico, and Jamaica.
Where: Transatlantic, from Barcelona
How was its 2017? Millennial
“Stylish and modern” was how IAG’s chief executive Willie Walsh described British Airways’ little sister, which launched in the summer. The carrier is the fifth of the IAG group, but the only one to focus on budget holidaymakers, offering headline-worthy prices of £99 to destinations across the Atlantic.
The catch is that the flights depart from Barcelona. But should you be willing to get yourself to Spain’s second city, cheap seats to destinations including Buenos Aires, LA and the Dominican Republic await. Its two new Airbus A330 aircraft will be configured to carry 293 economy seats and 21 premium economy.
How was its 2017? Canadian
Based in Calgary, Swoop is looking to start flying next year with six Boeing 737s on order. Its initial destination is to be Abbotsford, with Hamilton, Waterloo and Windsor in Ontario also on the cards.
The WestJet-owned carrier will be going head-to-head with Jetlines.
4. Primera Air
Where: Transatlantic, from Birmingham and Stansted
How was its 2017? Busy
This little-known airline will start flying from Birmingham and Stansted to the US: a daily service to New York (Newark) and a four-times weekly service to Boston from next spring. Last month it also announced a route to Toronto (Pearson) from the two UK airports.
The Icelandic airline, now based in Riga, began life by offering chartered flights for Scandinavian tour operators, but soon started selling surplus seats to regular travellers as flight-only tickets.
Primera has 10 orders with Airbus for its new fuel-efficient jets – the A321neo and A321LR - and has begun selling its transatlantic fares from £149 one-way.
CEO Hrafn Thorgeirsson told Telegraph Travel in July that the airline is mulling over further routes to the US west coast.
Where: Transatlantic, Europe and beyond
How was its 2017? Booming
One of the biggest stories to emerge in the last few years has been the remarkable growth of this Nordic airline. It first drew attention last year with its game-changing low fares to cities such as New York, but has now expanded its network out of London Gatwick, to destinations including Singapore, Buenos Aires and Las Vegas.
The most recent question mark over the carrier is whether it intends to expand its European short-haul operation to take on the powerhouses of EasyJet and Ryanair.
Asked about plans for its European expansion earlier this year, a spokesperson for Norwegian said: “Norwegian is ambitious, growing and our future expansion plans will include both long- and short-haul growth, supported by the large number of aircraft we have on order.”
How was its 2017? Slow-burning
Another Canadian low-cost operation means Britons looking to reach more far-flung corners of the North American country are in luck once they make the trip across the Pond. This year, Flair, which has existed since 2005, took over fellow carrier NewLeaf, expanding its destinations and fleet.
From next year it will run services from Edmonton to cities including Kelowna, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
7. Wizz Air
How was its 2017? Promising
The Hungarian airline has grown in stature this year, providing cheap flights to increasingly popular Eastern European destinations . Headquartered in Budapest, as of February this year Wizz operates in the UK out of Luton, primarily, as well as Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol, as well as Gatwick.
Across the board, Wizz flies more than 500 routes, with new launches this year including Tel Aviv, Pristina and Kutaisi.
It is perhaps best known to British travellers for cheap flights to cities in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, but it also offers routes to Spain, Italy and France.
Where: Transatlantic and Europe
How was its 2017? Restless
Wow was part of the vanguard of the low-cost, long-haul revolution, flying to the US and Canada via the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik. The carrier has seen its passenger numbers grow, more than doubling in 2016, serving destinations such as New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, while it has a number of Airbus A330neos on order.
Using Reykjavik as a hub, Wow has added more US cities to its route map, including Detroit, St Louis and Cleveland.
CEO Skuli Mogenson told Telegraph Travel in 2015 : “We have a very tough boss – it’s called the internet. If we are not delivering on our promise of having the cheapest flights, our sales simply drop to zero. There is no second place.”
How was its 2017? Dormant
One to watch, here. Tony Fernandes’s airline serves much of the east, with subsidiaries covering India, Thailand and Japan, but its long-haul operation AirAsia X, though offering cheap seats to Australia and Iran, has not re-started its European services since scrapping them in 2012.
A return to London, or Paris, has been on the cards for sometime. The airline has 66 Airbus A330neos and 10 A350s on order, which might herald a new beginning in the UK.
In April, Tony Fernandes, who also owns Queens Park Rangers football club, told Telegraph Travel he was “jealous of Norwegian”. “We are desperate to go to Europe,” he said. “We think it’s very important for our airline. We will go to Europe, it’s just a matter of time.”
How was its 2017? Rad
An airline actually aimed at millennials, Joon is the trendy offspring of Air France. It will launch later this year, flying to Porto, Lisbon and Barcelona from Paris Charles de Gaulle, as well as Fortaleza in Brazil and Mahe, Seychelles.
Further long-haul destinations are expected to be added next summer.
Joon will offer an “innovative and offbeat” experience to its “young and connected” jet-setting clientele, claims Air France.
Sporting a more hip and casual feel, passengers can expect to be served by cabin crew wearing electric blue-coloured “basic and chic” uniforms (think white trainers, blazers with rolled up sleeves, polo shirts and ankle-length trousers).