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December 17, 2017

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Norwegian Air has cheap flights to Europe. But not as cheap as you’ve heard.

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas News Bureau

Norwegian’s inaugural nonstop flight from Oslo to Las Vegas is guided to its gate at McCarran International Airport Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016.

Have you ever wanted to go to Europe? Or to Newburgh, New York? Well, you may be in luck.

Norwegian Air, a budget carrier hoping to make a name for itself in the U.S. market, began promoting dirt-cheap, no-frills tickets from the United States to Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland last week. One eye-catching promotion even offered one-way tickets to Ireland for $65.

Are there any catches? Well, a few.

For starters, the flights, which begin this summer, do not operate out of major airports. Travelers will have to make their way to airports in Newburgh, Providence, Rhode Island, or Hartford, Connecticut, to take advantage of cheap fares to Dublin, Shannon and Cork, in Ireland; Belfast, Northern Ireland; and Edinburgh, Scotland.

But perhaps more important, the heavily promoted low, low fares were a limited “introductory fare,” the company said. Those tickets — which offer a kind of bare-bones intercontinental travel that U.S. travelers may be unused to — have sold out.

“We sold over 20,000 tickets in three days,” said Ben Kaufman, a spokesman for the airline. “The bulk of the $65 fares sold out in about four hours. That was beyond even our — we had good expectations but that was beyond our expectations.”

Kaufman said there were still one-way tickets available for $99 and $109, the next two price tiers above a promotional price he called “ultralow.” A new promotion is also scheduled for St. Patrick’s Day. Nevertheless, Norwegian Air has spent the last few days apologizing on Twitter to angry consumers who wondered where the advertised deals had gone.

“Might want to stop marketing $65 fares if there is literally only ONE date with that option,” one woman wrote on Twitter.

“We did have those fares but they were gone so fast you cannot believe!” the airline replied.

Analysts who follow the travel industry can believe it, though.

“Norwegian’s fares can be deceptive,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst, said in an email. “Some flights now have fares that rival those of network airlines, and may be higher if the traveler adds optional services, such as checked luggage.”

Kaufman said that “during high season especially the possibility always exists that the fare structure won’t look that different” from what is offered by major airlines operating out of larger airports. “But that’s based on supply and demand economics,” he added.

Norwegian Air was a scrappy upstart just a few years ago but is now the 10th-largest trans-Atlantic airline by percentage of seats offered. In addition to its new low cost, small airport routes, the company also serves cities like Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Orlando, Florida.

Norwegian Air flies from Las Vegas to four European destinations. The airline began flying from Las Vegas in 2015 with nonstop flights to Copenhagen and Stockholm. The carrier expanded its schedule with routes to London Gatwick and Oslo, Norway, that launched last year.

The new flights will be the first European service to Stewart International Airport in Newburgh and T.F. Green Airport in Providence. It will also provide the first transatlantic service to Cork and the only U.S. service to Belfast.

Norwegian Air’s entrance to the U.S. market was resisted by labor groups, airlines and lawmakers in the United States who worried about its impact on U.S. jobs, but it was approved by the Obama administration late last year. When it announced the new service last week, the company stressed that its flight crews would be based in the United States and said it hoped the service would boost tourism and create new jobs in New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Officials in Ireland are hopeful that the low cost tickets will translate into more U.S. tourists. But there, too, the company’s steadily rising ticket prices have become a sticking point.

A video by the Irish comedian Trevor Browne that spread quickly online showed him trying to persuade friends to accompany him on a 65-euros trip to New York while the ticket price slowly climbed on a computer screen behind him, eventually settling at over 850 euros.

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