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Singapore to London and back for just $630

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European carrier Norwegian set to launch longest budget flight

When European carrier Norwegian starts flying between London's Gatwick Airport and Singapore in September, it will be the longest budget flight ever operated.

The 10,841km trip will take just under 13 hours for those travelling here and about an hour longer on the way back to Gatwick.

Singapore will be the second Asian destination, after Bangkok - which it launched in June 2013 - for Norwegian, which operates long-haul flights mainly between Europe and the United States.

The launch of its London-Singapore service will boost Changi's status as an airport of choice and hub for all types of carriers, analysts said.

The move could compel Singapore Airlines (SIA) and British Airways, which now dominate flights to London's Heathrow, to offer travellers sweeter deals, they added.

To mark the new route, Norwegian is offering a return fare of £348.90 (S$630) inclusive of all taxes. An upgrade with a choice of seat, food and checked baggage will cost £449.80 - about $400 less than an SIA flight, which costs about $1,200.

All seats on Norwegian's long-haul flights come with an individual entertainment screen.

Apart from affordable fares, travellers from Singapore can also access the airline's network from Gatwick.

The airline covers more than 50 destinations in Europe and the US, Norwegian's chief executive, Mr Bjorn Kjos, told The Straits Times.

Budget goes long haul

The Singapore partnership could deepen, with benefits for the airline, Changi Airport and travellers, said the Centre for Aviation's Mr Brendan Sobie.

Norwegian is reportedly considering flights to Singapore from Paris, Barcelona and Oslo, the capital of Norway, and could also partner Asian budget airlines to expand its network in this region, he said.

For Changi, budget routes to Europe are particularly attractive in a market that has been "relatively stagnant" in the last few years, Mr Sobie said.

Aviation history is littered with those who tried but failed.

Casualties include Hong Kong-based Oasis from the early 2000s and Viva Macau, which started long-haul operations about a decade ago. Both no longer exist.

Short-haul budget carriers make money driving traveller volumes with short flights, quick turnarounds and high aircraft utilisation rates, but longer flights do not enjoy these benefits.

Still, Norwegian, Jetstar, AirAsia X and SIA's Scoot have managed to make the business work, even if tough times have seen red numbers in the books and routes being dropped from time to time.


Others are keen to emulate Norwegian, said Mr Shukor Yusof, aviation analyst at Endau Analytics.

IAG, owner of British Airways, has launched Level, a new budget long-haul airline that will initially fly to Los Angeles, Oakland, Buenos Aires and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic from next month.

Two key factors are driving the revival of such carriers - sub-US$50 oil prices per barrel for a few years now and new fuel-efficient planes like the Boeing 787 and Airbus 350.