Norwegian Air Argentina (NAA) will begin flying within Argentina in mid-October, the company announced Sept. 4, as tickets went on sale for six domestic routes.

Moving forward on plans originally announced in early 2017, the airline—a subsidiary of ever-expanding LCC Norwegian Air Shuttle—will operate its first cabotage routes between Buenos Aires and regional cities Córdoba and Mendoza from Oct. 16. Additional routes to four other Argentine cities— Iguazú, Neuquén, Bariloche and Salta—will begin operations later, the company said.

The initial round of NAA flights will all operate from Buenos Aires’ Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (AEP), close to the city center, as opposed to Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) located 22 km (13.6 miles) outside of the capital.  The airline will fly Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft on the routes, configured with 189 single cabin seats, utilizing the LCC model of segmented sales of products and services.

“The imminent start of our operations confirms the long-term interest and commitment we have in Argentina,” Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos said. “Supported by our global vision of offering low rates for all, our [NAA] flights will help improve connectivity in the country, encourage local tourism and attract more tourists from abroad, causing a direct and indirect impact on job creation.”

Norwegian Air Argentina presented its operational plans to the Argentine government in September 2017. In December, the government authorized NAA to operate 72 domestic and 80 international routes, and in January, the airline received its air operator certificate (AOC).  Shortly thereafter, the carrier’s first Argentine-registered aircraft arrived in country.

Direct Norwegian flights to Buenos Aires from New York-JFK and London Gatwick began in mid-February. In June, NAA signed an agreement with the government of the province of Córdoba to establish a base of operations and within two years generate 100 direct jobs locally.

The airline plans to operate between 10 and 15 aircraft on 246 flights per week by the end of its first year of operations, aiming to transport up to 2.2 million passengers. In 10 years, NAA expects to have 70 aircraft in operation covering over 100 routes, serving over 12 million passengers.

“The start of our sales and early start-up of operations are our biggest milestone since the founding of Norwegian Air Argentina,” NAA CEO Ole Christian Melhus said. “Argentina has enormous potential for aviation development and a more integrated economy.”

Argentine transport minister Guillermo Dietrich—tasked with oversight of the government’s ARS22 billion ($1.4 billion) plan to improve the country’s aviation infrastructure over a multiple year period—described the forthcoming launch of NAA flights as “a step further in … a revolution that has been growing very strongly throughout the country and especially in the provinces, as more people agree to travel by plane, with more and better airports in all the provinces.”

“New companies like this one that invest in Argentina, who make millions in investments, [they] buy new airplanes, they hire personnel and open new opportunities in the sector,” Dietrich said.

Norwegian Air Shuttle recorded a NOK300 million ($37 million) profit for the second quarter of 2018, reversed from a loss of NOK691 million in 2Q 2017.

“Despite being at the peak of our growth phase, we [were] able to present a profit and decreased unit costs during the second quarter,” Kjos said. The airline earned second-quarter revenues of NOK10.2 billion, up 32% year-over-year and representing a record high for the airline.

The company has been met with skepticism over its expansive and ambitious outreach over the past several years, with some arguments that Norwegian’s growth is unsustainable.

During the 2Q results call in early July, Kjos told investors: “Going forward, [Norwegian’s] growth will slow down, and we will reap what we have sown for the benefit of our customers, staff and shareholders.”

Mark Nensel