Back in April British Airways parent company IAG acquired just under 5% of Norwegian and started talks to acquire the discount carrier. I assumed that acquire meant smother it so that the airline wouldn’t keep depressing transatlantic fares, especially out of cities like London.
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On Friday former British Airways CEO and current head of parent company IAG said that they’ve twice been rebuffed in their attempts to buy Norwegian, that they are still interested, though suggested that interest would wane (message to Norwegian: take a deal while you still can).
Willie Walsh also confirmed my suspicions about what a deal for Norwegian would mean for their transatlantic flying: he’s interested in the short-haul European route network and not their flights to the U.S.
The CEO says the carrier’s European network is especially attractive, and though he cautions that his company’s interest “wanes over time,” he still appears enthusiastic.
“I’m getting updates. There’s a lot happening in that company. It’s an opportunity, especially if you look at the short-haul network. But we would only do it if we thought that would generate returns that can match.”
They’ll talk up the deal as it relates to intra-Europe opportunities but what I hear is the profit from the deal comes from higher fares across the Pond. IAG does have their own low fare subsidiary LEVEL, started largely in reaction to Norwegian and similar carriers. Air France has one too — something their new CEO is questioning.
Meanwhile Walsh also expressed the seriousness of Qatar’s threat to leave oneworld with the rather absurd claim that Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker “doesn’t say these things without being genuine.” Qatar is the largest owner of IAG.