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Low-cost goes full circle

Low-cost flights between the UK and the US have been a long-held dream. It is 37 years since Freddie Laker kicked off a whole new sector of the aviation industry with his £59 one-way flights between London and New York.

A few years back Ryanair claimed it was looking at doing something similar but the much-debated plans never came to anything.

The most recent airline hoping to crack the cheap London-New York market is somewhat surprising and - it comes from Norway.

In July, Norwegian Air Shuttle launched three times weekly Boeing 787 services between London Gatwick and New York as well as twice weekly flights to LA and Fort Lauderdale. The airline has already indicated that it will double services on the NYC and LA routes from next summer.

Fares to New York start from £149 including taxes one way, although the fare does not include in-flight food, seat reservations or baggage, which add an extra £35 each way to the cost. LA fares start at £199 one way. (Interestingly those Laker fares are equivalent to around £370 now taking inflation into account.)

Bjørn Kjos, CEO of Norwegian said: "In order to compete in the global airline industry you need to adapt to changes and keep a constant focus on cost. Norwegian has a low-cost model, meaning a lean administration, brand new and fuel efficient aircraft and efficient operations. We fly direct routes with high passenger demand and choose centrally located airports such at Gatwick that share our mindset."

Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate added: "A low-cost carrier flying to the Big Apple for a small price shows how fast aviation is changing and highlights one of a series of future trends that will have a huge bearing on the UK’s runways debate."

Ryanair, meanwhile, has announced details of its business-focused offering, Ryanair Business Plus.

Ryanair Business Plus fares, which will start at £59.99, will offer ticket flexibility, 20kg checked-in luggage, fast track at selected airports, priority boarding and premium seats. Seats are bookable through the Travelport GDS. The no-frills carrier says that more than 25% of its passengers are travelling on business.