By Chris Sloan in Seattle and Benjamin Bearup in Atlanta
SEATTLE – Today, Boeing marked the first two deliveries of the new 737 MAX to Norwegian Air Shuttle. The airplanes, two 737 MAX 8s, were handed over to Norwegian Air at Boeing’s Seattle Delivery Center. The Scandinavia-based airline will be the second carrier to put the 737 MAX into commercial service.
In a statement, Bjørn Kjos, Norwegian’s Chief Executive Officer, said “We have been eagerly awaiting the delivery of our Boeing 737 MAX, and we are overjoyed to have it join our fleet today. We are the first European airline to operate this brand-new aircraft, and we’re also the first airline in the world to operate it to/from the United States.”
“This aircraft allows us to open up new, unserved routes and offer both Americans and Europeans even more affordable transatlantic fares. It will also provide our passengers with a quieter onboard experience, whilst it significantly reduces both fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions.”
Speaking at the delivery ceremony, Kjos said “The 737MAX-8 will pave the way for a totally new concept giving us the ability to open up new routes on a far new basis. By landing at these small airports, we have very quick turnaround and low airport costs. We pass these savings on to our passengers. A lot of people were shocked that we launched with $65. Our promise is we will always have low fare tickets available, like $99.”
Kjos added that “We are pleased to be the best low-cost carrier for the third year in a row and best low-cost carrier in Europe for 5 years. Today, we have 56 routes across the Atlantic after only starting 3 years ago. We are the 2nd European carrier across the Atlantic to the U.S. We are excited to start flying the MAX. Thank you to Boeing for giving us the possibility of flying these airplanes.”
Wednesday, Airways was granted the opportunity to visit the first Norwegian 737 MAX at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington. There, we were given an exterior tour of EI-FYA (LN: 6360), one of two 737 MAXs Norwegian took delivery of today.
Prior to delivery, EI-FYA did not yet feature the portrait of a historically notable Norwegian like most Norwegian Air aircraft. After arriving in Oslo, EI-FYA will receive a portrait decal of aviation pioneer Sir Freddie Laker, the founder of Laker Airways.
At the delivery ceremony, Kjos spoke of Laker saying “He paved the road for low cost flying across the Atlantic. He deserves to be on the tail.” Kjos also announced that Norwegian will feature heroes from the Untied States on upcoming Norwegian aircraft.
EI-FYA completed its first flight on April 26th and has since completed at least seven test flights. This is an abnormally high number of tests flights for a 737 but is common among early build aircraft.
Its sister aircraft, EI-FYB (LN: 6372) had its first flight on June 1st and has since completed seven test and customer flights also. Two additional Norwegian 737 MAXs, EI-FYC (LN: 6396) and EI-FYD (LN: 6408), are currently flight testing and will be delivered in the coming weeks.
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Prior to entering service, Norwegian will likely fly the 737 MAX 8 on a series of proving routes to familiarize crews with the new aircraft. The duration of the proving period may be rather short due to the necessity of the 737 MAX on its new flights.
Norwegian will become the first carrier to use the 737 MAX on trans-Atlantic flights, joining the A319 as the only non-757 narrowbody to fly across the Atlantic in modern times. The 737 MAX will also be an incredible economic boon to Norwegian, as narrowbody aircraft are always more cost-efficient than widebody aircraft on any route that both types can fly.
Norwegian has generated fantastic growth with its fleet of Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 jets flying long distance routes. But those routes have not been financially viable.
The airline had planned to begin its narrowbody transatlantic operations with the 737 MAX on June 15th, but a series of problems delayed delivery of the 737 MAX. One such delay, caused by the Pratt & Whitney Leap-1B engine, pushed delivery of the first 737 MAX to launch customer Malindo Air by several weeks.
Despite missing the 737 MAX, Norwegian launched its planned narrowbody transatlantic service on June 15th. For two weeks, Norwegian has been operating the 737-800 between Edinburgh and three Northeast United States destinations, routes that stretch the 737-800 to its limits.
To facilitate using the range restricted 737-800, Norwegian has been forced to limit the weight of the aircraft operating the flights.
On June 15th, Airways flew on the inaugural flight between Edinburgh and Newburgh, New York on the 737-800. Prior to the flight, Norwegian and Newburgh officials held a brief ceremony welcoming the new flight.
Norwegian will throw two larger ceremonies on July 15th and July 16th as the carrier launches nine new routes from Newburgh and Providence, Rhode Island.
The key to Norwegian’s success operating narrowbody transatlantic flights is the 737 MAX 8. “The 737 MAX 8 is a significant addition to Norwegian’s fleet, enabling the airline to start the next chapter in its incredible growth story of low-cost, long-haul travel,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ President and CEO, Kevin McAllister. “It is a tremendous honor that a brand as innovative as Norwegian will be the first European carrier to fly the 737 MAX, and we are certain that this airplane will play a key role in its continued success.”
Norwegian currently has 108 more 737 MAX 8 aircraft on order. The airline plans to take delivery of six 737 MAX 8s in 2017 and will station two in Edinburgh and four in the United States at its new bases at Stewart International Airport in New York and Providence’s T.F. Green Airport, Rhode Island.
These two airports will be the third and fourth Norwegian Air bases in the Untied States, joining New York-JFK and Fort-Lauderdale (both 787 Dreamliner bases).
This summer, Norwegian will operate 12 narrowbody routes between the northeastern U.S. and Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Norway. All 12 routes will be flown with the six 737 MAXs the airline will take delivery of in the coming months.
The European routes from Newburgh, Providence, and Windsor Locks are just the first batch of narrowbody transatlantic routes for Norwegian. With the 737 MAX 8 and the A321LR coming in large quantities, these fuel efficient airliners will open many new opportunities and destinations for the carrier.
The 737 MAX will enable Norwegian to launch unserved routes that would not be profitable with the 787 Dreamliner but are perfectly suited for a single-aisle aircraft and less frequency. While Norwegian will not speculate on future routes, expect them to connect cities like Nice and Lyon, France to the Northeast United States.
Speaking to Airways ahead of the first 737 MAX delivery, a Norwegian official said the airline sees very few differences between customers flying from larger cities Norwegian serves, like New York City, and customers opting to fly from Norwegian’s secondary destinations, like Newburgh.
The official added that at the end of the day, Norwegian is making it more affordable for Americans to visit Europe regardless of where they live.
Just like Norwegian’s narrowbody network, its long-haul network has been rapidly expanding also. At the delivery ceremony, Kjos said “We have 14 787’s flying now with 31 by end of year. We will have 42 787’s by the end of our order and perhaps another ten.”
As part of the delivery celebrations, Norwegian auctioned off 12 seats for the delivery flight of EI-FYA with all proceeds donated to UNICEF of Norway. In total, the 12 seats sold for a combined $24,012.
The Norwegian 737 MAX 8 will seat 189 passengers in an all-economy layout. At this time, Norwegian’s 737 MAX 8 fleet will not be equipped with wifi. The MAX fleet will have wifi installed at a later date this year.
This will allow the A321LR to fly missions as long as the Midwestern U.S. to continental Europe (including Norwegian’s home base of Scandinavia). As a result, in the long run, most of Norwegian’s trans-Atlantic flights will be flown on the Airbus A321LR, not the 737 MAX 8. The vast majority of the 110 MAX 8s Norwegian has on order will instead fly mostly around Europe.
As the 737 MAX is delivered to its second customer, the program is in excellent shape. The launch of the 737 MAX 10 at the 2017 Paris Air Show (PAS) with more than 350 orders, commitments, and conversions has put a big dent into Airbus’ advantage over Boeing in the all-important middle of the market (MoM) space.
The 737 MAX 8’s successful delivery to another customer also contrasts sharply with the continued issues faced by rival Airbus’ A320neo due to issues with engine supplier Pratt & Whitney. Boeing will now operate with renewed optimism that the 737 MAX family can narrow the orders gap with the A320neo family.
While Norwegian is the first airline to operate the 737 MAX in the United States, domestic giant Southwest Airlines will be the first American airline to fly the aircraft type. Southwest expects to begin flying the 737 MAX 8 in October as the airline retires its 737-300 fleet.
Today’s delivery flight of EI-FYA departed Seattle at 4 pm for Oslo, Norway. Its sister aircraft, EI-FYB, is scheduled to depart less than 30 minutes later. Airways is onboard and will publish a trip report from the flight tomorrow.
The delivery flight departed with 34 passengers and crew onboard. For weight and balance purposes, passengers were assigned seats past row nine.
NOTE: Follow @AirwaysLive on Twitter for the latest from today’s delivery flight of the first Norwegian 737 MAX.