After a truly impactful year on the aviation industry, Norwegian Air announced that due to COVID-19 and government advice discouraging travel, it would abandon its long haul flights to focus on its European audience for the time being.
That means Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is losing two European routes: a nonstop route to London and Austin's sole nonstop route to Paris.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected the entire aviation industry," Norwegian Air said in a press release. "Travel restrictions and changing government advice continue to negatively influence demand for long haul travel, and Norwegian's entire Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet has been grounded since March 2020. Future demand remains highly uncertain. Under these circumstances, a long haul operation is not viable for Norwegian and these operations will not continue."
Norwegian said that instead, it will continue to offer short haul service to its Nordic customers and to key destinations around Europe. The airline said it plans to reassess opportunities in the future, as the world starts to recover from COVID-19.
Norwegian announced in October 2019 that it would offer nonstop service from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport—the only airline at ABIA to do so. The flights were scheduled to take off in May 2020 and were unfortunately never able to get off the ground.
British Airways will still provide a nonstop route from Austin to London, though service is temporarily suspended.
Norwegian Air CEO Jacob Schram said he doesn't expect customer demand for long haul flights to recover in the near future.
"Our focus is to rebuild a strong, profitable Norwegian so that we can safeguard as many jobs as possible," Schram said. "It is with a heavy heart that we must accept that this will impact dedicated colleagues from across the company. I would like to thank each one of our affected colleagues for their tireless dedication and contribution to Norwegian over the years."
The airline said it will issue refunds to customers that have been affected by the announcement.
Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Salute the support. 👏
It's only the beginning for @AustinFC. pic.twitter.com/TduorqYr2y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks. It was harder for them to stay in front, however, something that Wolff credits with quick decision making and a tough LAFC defense.
"We have a quick attacking team, but I think when you make quick attacks and it fizzles it's just about some decision making," Wolff said. "Are we in position to finish attacks? If not, can we reestablish our attack and get stuff better?"
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal. He didn't have much time to prepare, either: in the first 30 seconds of play, Stuver had already made a save to keep the match 0-0.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last-minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
While the scoreboard tells one story, Wolff said that the team did well considering the skill of LAFC and the pressure of their club debut.
"We've got to be realistic," Wolff said. "This is the first time this organization has been in front of TV with an opportunity to show itself and I think there were some promising moments. And we're going to maximize those and continue to try to develop those, but there's lots to build on."
The team may have lost, but it still won the support of thousands of Verde fans, dozens of which made it to watch their team's first match. When Stuver and the team made it to bthe stadium, Los Verdes fans were already there to show support, and Stuver said his wife saw the same back in Austin.
"The moment that we pulled into the stadium, we saw Black and Verde fans cheering us on as we got to the stadium," Stuver said. "During warm up, you can just look around and see different groups sitting in different sections of the stadium and it's just truly amazing to see the support in our first game. We know that we want to give the fans everything, because this we play for the city and we play for them."