Norwegian Air turns up heat on IAG with Gatwick slots deal

LONDON, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Norwegian Air Shuttle on Wednesday said it had bought extra slots at London’s Gatwick Airport to expand its UK operations, upping capacity at the airport where it competes with British Airways owner IAG .

Norwegian said it had bought 28 additional weekly take-off and landing slots at Gatwick from summer 2018 from Lithuania’s Small Planet Airlines.

The move comes after it launched a new connecting service with easyJet at the airport earlier this year, and Norwegian said that more growth would follow.

“London Gatwick is at the heart of our global growth ambitions so securing these crucial new slots will allow us to offer our passengers even more new routes, additional flights and affordable fares,” Thomas Ramdahl, Chief Commercial Officer at Norwegian, said in a statement.

Norwegian and Iceland’s Wow Air have begun offering cut-price fares to U.S. destinations from Europe, putting the squeeze on traditional long-haul carriers.

Earlier this year, Norwegian agreed a deal with easyJet to allow the British carrier’s passengers to connect more easily with long-haul flights at Gatwick, putting more pressure on IAG, which competes with Norwegian on transatlantic routes from the airport.

Last month, IAG also boosted its presence at Gatwick, securing slots from Monarch after the airline’s sudden collapse at the start of October.

Analysts have said that IAG’s newly acquired Gatwick slots could be used to expand its low-cost long-haul airline Level, which launched this year to compete in the growing budget transatlantic market.

Reporting by Alistair Smout. Editing by Jane Merriman