LCC Norwegian plans to drop its only service to Southeast Asia early next year in a major blow to its ambitious plans to grow Asian traffic.

According to the airline’s booking website, the flight departing London-Gatwick will no longer be available after Jan. 10, 2019, and the last return flight leaves Singapore the following day.

Norwegian did not immediately comment.

Expansion to Asia-Pacific—China in particular—was initially one of the main pillars of Norwegian’s planned foray into long-haul flying.

The start of new services was initially held up by the long-delayed US air carrier permit for Norwegian Air UK, the unit that was supposed to operate Asian routes because it could take advantage of UK or European Union traffic rights. Since overcoming that hurdle, Russia’s refusal to grant overflight rights has held back any moves.

Norwegian EVP-strategy Tore Østby said at the London Aviation Festival that regulatory issues are not the only reason why no more Asian flights have been introduced.

“We fly West because of yields and traffic,” he said, referencing the airline’s fast growing transatlantic network. Østby does not see the Europe-Asia market as being ripe yet: “So far it is Europeans flying East. In the future, Asians will fly West, but it is early days. The yields are not there.” He conceded, nonetheless, that “ideally we would like to build up [the network] both ways.

In addition to US and Canada services, Norwegian is expanding to Latin America and has started flying from London-Gatwick to Buenos Aires. It is adding a service to Rio de Janeiro next spring. Norwegian has not revealed an exact date yet.

The airline’s Argentinian affiliate will launch domestic services Oct. 14. Østby said Norwegian may move some of the 30 Airbus A321LRs on firm order to Argentina to expand regional flying. That move would likely only come from 2020 onward once the airline is confident the Argentinian air transport market is strong enough to support such growth.

Jens Flottau, jens.flottau@aviationweek.com