Easyjet have announced a tie-up with Norwegian to provide flights, with guaranteed connections, to more far flung destinations.
Well, sort of.
Actually, what they have done, is kept the flights totally separate and used the "Gatwick Connects" service (available at anywhere you like as long as it is London Gatwick) to take away any pain Easyjet or Norwegian may suffer from their respective flights being late. You have to allow at least 2 and a half hours connecting time at Gatwick, irrespective of what the IATA regulation "Minimum Connecting Time" may be.
It is not a bad idea - but does it work?
I looked at a trip from Los Angeles (LAX) to the Isle of Man (IOM). Departing on the 11th October and returning on the 19th October. The best fare offered, on the lead page for the flights, with Easyjet Worldwide is £660.74 a head. This is made up of £529.30 for Norwegian, £96.94 for Easyjet and £34.50 for "Gatwick Connects".
Looking on Sabre, I can use Aer Lingus through Dublin for the same journey for £715.18.
So, why not take the Norwegian/ Easyjet option?
Connections are a bit give and take. With the Gatwick version, I have a 6 hour layover on the way out, though on the return, this is reduced to a more sensible 3 hours. Aer Lingus will connect with 2 and a half hours out and 4 hours back. Baggage: Norwegian allow 1 piece of checked baggage, Easyjet don't. This means I need to add a bag to the Easyjet flights at £30.90, making my total £695.08. That's before, if I wish to, add a seat reservation to my Easyjet flight. There is a difference, then of £20.10. Is it worth it?
The Aer Lingus option allows one piece of checked baggage straight through, rather than having to wait to collect your bag at Gatwick and then having to go to the Gatwick Connects service desk. For some, this may be useful as at least, you know that your bag has got as far as Gatwick but for many, spending an extra £20 to avoid such, may be worthwhile.
Effectively, you are relying on a third party to effect your connection, rather than the Aer Lingus option where the "delivering airline" responsibility is maintained.
Then I looked at Singapore. Here the story is totally different. The benefit, here, of using Norwegian/ Easyjet, is more distinct (cost-wise). On Easyjet worldwide, with a return on the 21st October (Norwegian do not have daily flights on this route at the moment) you can get a return journey for £775.46 (including a checked bag on the Easyjet flight). The best available option using Singapore Airlines and FlyBe is an eye-watering £3010.86 - and that is still in the coach cabin. British Airways will offer a similar (coach) routing at £1028.46 as long as you don't mind getting from London City Airport to Heathrow (and vice versa on the return).
(I should add that the Singapore Airlines cost is mainly driven by the aircraft on the chosen days, being fairly full)
What you do have to bear in mind, though, in all these cases, is if there is a plan "B". Miss the connection on the British Airways or Singapore Airlines options, then there is another flight later that day. Miss the Gatwick connection, even though there is no additional expense, the next flight to (or from) Singapore is 3 days later!
Apart from the third party involvement, the Gatwick connection hub makes sense on some routes, although the tickets are still two separate and distinct journeys (and this must be understood). You do have to stop to collect your bags at Gatwick but the service offered by Gatwick Connects is now bedded in and seems to work rather well.
One wonders if this is clever marketing by Easyjet, Norwegian .... or Gatwick Connects. Either way, it is a step forward for both airlines and given the apparent reliability, worth considering as a travel option.