Logan to have most low-cost trans-Atlantic flights in US
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Boston is a pricey town. But when it comes to flying across the Atlantic, we are about to become the home of discount air fares.
Massport will increase the number of low-cost carriers flying out of Logan International Airport this spring, and by May, the airport will be home to more no-frills trans-Atlantic flights than any other US airport, officials said.
That means bargain prices on little-known airlines, including $312 flights to Manchester, England, on Thomas Cook Airlines Ltd. or a $650 trip to Dusseldorf on AirBerlin PLC.
"We've had a huge influx," Massachusetts Port Authority chief Thomas Glynn said. "It's a good thing for the market because people have more choices."
The surge in low-cost carriers from eight to 12 by spring at Logan began last March when the discount carrier from Iceland, WOW air, began offering nonstop flights to Reykjavik and Northern Europe. Last month, Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA also started offering direct flights from Boston to Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean. The airline will also begin flights to Oslo and Copenhagen in May.
The ultra-discount Irish carrier Ryanair is not among the carriers coming to Logan soon. A spokesman said Thursday the company is "focused on European growth."
Industry analysts said they expect the growth of low-cost carriers in Boston to continue because of a confluence of global and regional forces, from low oil and fuel prices and Logan's proximity to Europe to the strength of the economy of Greater Boston, which has ample supply of business travelers and younger flyers interested in seeing the world on the cheap.
"When Norwegian launched those routes here, a lot of us thought they lost their mind," said Seth Kaplan, an analyst for the industry publication Airline Weekly. "But the tide is high now because of low fuel costs. All kinds of routes work now that would not have worked before."
US market prices of jet fuel are down about 40 percent from a year ago, according to the Energy Department. Norwegian Air can also afford to offer flight discounts — such as flights for as little as $210 from Boston to Oslo — because it operates a fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners, a newer aircraft that uses about 40 percent less fuel than older jets still flown by legacy carriers such as Deutsche Lufthansa AG and British Airways PLC, said Kenneth Sivertsen, an airline equity analyst with the Swedish investment bank SEB.
Norwegian Air views the Boston area as an untapped market, Sivertsen said. The drop in the value of the Norwegian currency, the krone, has also made more US travelers interested in traveling to the Scandinavian country.
"It's 30 percent cheaper to stay in Norway [now] than last year," he said. "Now is the time to do it."
Logan is not dominated by a single carrier that uses Boston as its hub, which makes it attractive to airlines trying to break into a market here, analysts said. JetBlue, another low-cost carrier, is Logan's busiest airline, with 932 flights weekly, but it is headquartered in New York, with its hub at John F. Kennedy Airport.
AirlineRatings.com, which audits safety data from aviation governing bodies, governments, and other sources, reported earlier this month that the top 10 safest low-cost carriers included three that fly out of Logan: JetBlue, Thomas Cook Airlines Ltd., based in the United Kingdom, and WestJet Airlines Ltd., based in Calgary, Alberta.
To be sure, flying on some discount airlines is not always a magical experience, and review websites are filled with complaints about shrunken leg room, surcharges on everything from bags to snacks, and customer service shortcomings.
"You do get what you pay for," said Kaplan. "And you have to know what you're getting into."
Germanwings, renamed Eurowings after a crash last year that killed all 150 on board, will also offer discount fares to Cologne, Germany. The airline did not respond to requests for comment.
One of the pilots, Andreas Lubitz, had reportedly suffered from severe depression. The incident has led to efforts to improve psychological screening for new pilots and had led to calls for the creation of a European database with details of medical visits as well as improved support networks to reduce the risk of a similar tragedy.