The inaugural London – Buenos Aires flight on Norwegian Airlines touched down this morning, making it the first low-cost connection between the United Kingdom and Argentina. The flight was met by ministers, who celebrated the development as a building block to increasing tourism and boosting economic development.
Tourism Minister Gustavo Santos, Transport Minister Guillermo Dietrich, British Ambassador to Argentina Mark Kent and Ole Christian Melhus, CEO of Norwegian Air Argentina, and Matías Eurnekian, president of Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 met the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that came in overnight from London-Gatwick at Ezeiza airport.
They later expressed their optimism about the impact that the new low-cost connection may have for tourism to Argentina and economic development in particular at a reception at the British Ambassadors’ residence.
Santos stressed that the single-most important variable for boosting tourism to Argentina is increasing connectivity, and he went as far as calling Norwegian Airlines, along with flag-carrier Aerolíneas Argentinas, a “strategic partner” in Argentina’s development.
“I have no doubt that tourism is going to be one of the elements that generates growth in the Argentina that is coming. Argentina has only one limit, and that is the number of seats that are available. Everything that we achieve raises the ceiling. Norwegian is going to be a great ally, our primary strategic ally along with our flag-carrier to develop the countries in the coming years.”
Melhus said that Norwegian expects to hire 3,000 to 4,000 people in Argentina directly and generate up to 55,000 jobs indirectly as a result of its growth.
Further to the four flights a week between Gatwick and Ezeiza, operated by Norwegian Air UK, Norwegian Air Argentina will begin its domestic flight operations in May. An investment of US $4.3 billion in the country has been projected over the next 10 to 15 years and Norwegian has been awarded licenses to operate 152 routes by the Argentine government.
Ambassador Kent added that an additional 72,000 people will be traveling between the UK And Argentina as a result of these Norwegian flights, expressing his satisfaction that here had been an increase in people to people links.
Prices for seats on the 14-hour flight between Gatwick and Ezeiza start at US$ 378 per leg, when available, without including the costs of luggage, meal, or seat selection. Those options are available for a fee or at a discounted rate if a higher fare class is selected, in keeping with the low-cost model that Norwegian uses. From Gatwick travelers can also tap into the airline’s low-cost network of European and international flights.
Dietrich, who has been one of the major actors behind the arrival of low-cost airlines, said that the process of increasing competition had not hurt Aerolíneas, pointing to records in January for the number of passengers carried and on-time rates. Mariano Recalde, president of Aerolíneas Argentinas during the Kirchner years, has been critical of the Maurico Macri government’s policy con commercial flights, arguing that it would affect Aerolíneas negatively.
The minister, while celebrating the arrival of new airlines in Argentina such as FlyBondi and Avianca said that he could not understand those criticisms and also added that the “in Argentina there is still unfortunately a majority of people that have never flown on an airplane. And what is most serious us that they never had the opportunity to even dream about getting on an airplane.”
The return flight to Gatwick departed just after 1:30pm today.