Norwegian Air will cancel its summer 2017 flights to Las Vegas from 4 European cities until Las Vegas cools off. The airline says it has trouble getting its planes off the ground when temperatures go above 104°F, as they often do there.
The problem is a misfit between physics and the economics of discount flying.
- The hotter the weather, the thinner the air; thin air makes it harder for planes to lift off
- The usual solution to that is to limit the plane's weight, usually by leaving some seats unsold
- The problem is bigger for Norwegian than for other airlines, because its planes are fuller and heavier. Norwegian flies 787-8 and 787-9 models with 291 and 344 seats respectively. United, which isn't all-economy, carries 219 and 252.
- Norwegian operates on thin margins; that's its business plan: Sell lots of seats cheap. Its load factors from on the Las Vegas routes have been above 80% and into the 90s.
- Reducing the number of tickets sold might get the planes off the ground, but make the flight unprofitable. And raising the prices might make the fare less competititve.
So, for now, Norwegian is calling off the routes from March 25 until November, and says it's exploring other options for 2018. Like perhaps scheduling its departures from Las Vegas for cooler evening hours.