Delta considers no-frills seats on international flights to compete with foreign carriers

Aircraft for Norwegian Air Shuttle sit at the Stockholm Arlanda Airport. Delta Air Lines executives say they may consider offering no-frill seats to Europe to compete with a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle.
(Johan Nilsson / Associated Press)

Several major U.S. carriers offer no-frills airfares on domestic flights, but some airlines may be considering bare-bones fares for international routes to respond to stiff competition from foreign rivals.

Delta Air Lines, the nation’s second-largest carrier, is considering ultra-cheap fares on transatlantic routes to compete with rivals such as low-cost Norwegian Air International, a subsidiary of Norway-based Norwegian Air Shuttle, one of Europe’s biggest low-cost carriers.

In an earnings conference call this week, Delta executives said revenue from transatlantic flights was down, partly because of competition from foreign low-cost carriers.


The executives didn’t name the carriers, but Delta and several other major U.S. carriers have petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation to halt Norwegian from flying to the United States from a base in Ireland, claiming Norwegian is competing unfairly by skirting labor laws. Norwegian rejects such charges. The DOT has yet to issue a final decision on the matter, but has said it has found no evidence of labor law violations.

The parent company, Norwegian Air Shuttle, already flies to the United States from its base in Norway.

Asked during the earnings call Thursday how Delta would compete with low-cost carriers from Europe, Delta Chief Executive Edward Bastian said the airline will consider offering ultra-cheap fares for international flights.

“I think we have to look at our entire service offering and ensure that we are supplying what the market wants to buy,” he said. “I think what we know is that Delta has a very, very strong brand, and much stronger than some of the [ultra low-cost carriers], and that people would prefer to fly with us than they would on some of the unknown, non-brand names.”

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