BERLIN, April 20 (Reuters) - Low cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle announced its first route linking London and Asia on Thursday, starting a service to Singapore as it seeks a slice of the market for business and leisure travellers on longer haul flights.
Norwegian has been expanding rapidly on routes from Europe to the United States over the last year, prompting other carriers to launch their own budget operations or introduce lower-priced fares that strip out items such as baggage.
The latest move sees Norwegian steal a march on budget carrier Air Asia X on low-cost travel between Asia and London. Malaysia-based Air Asia X has been considering restarting a route to London after axing it in 2012.
"Our transatlantic flights have shown the huge demand for affordable long-haul travel, so we are delighted to expand into new markets and offer our first route to Asia from the UK," Norwegian Chief Executive Bjorn Kjos said in a statement.
Norwegian's flights between the financial centres of London and Singapore will start at the end of September and use the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. They will fly from London's Gatwick airport.
Non-stop flights on the London-Singapore route are currently operated by British Airways and Singapore Airlines .
Norwegian's flights will be operated by its UK subsidiary, which allows the company to take advantage of traffic rights between Britain and countries in Asia, Africa and South America.
Economy fares will start from 179 pounds ($229) one way, while seats in its premium cabin, which include meals, baggage and more legroom, will start from 699 pounds, it said. ($1 = 0.7809 pounds) (Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Keith Weir)