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Wizz Air Drops All Norwegian Domestic Flying, Reduces Oslo Network
On Friday, Wizz Air announced that it would drop its entire Norwegian domestic network amid the successful restructuring of Norwegian Air Shuttle last week. Additionally, the airline will eliminate a significant portion of its Oslo Gardermoen offering, which leaves a small set of services to Central and Eastern Europe.
Domestically, the low-cost carrier plans to close services from Oslo Gardermoen to 10 destinations within Norway, including flights to Alesund, Alta, Bergen, Bodø, Harstad, Haugesund, Kirkenes, Stavanger, Tromso and Trondheim. These flights will all end on June 14, according to a statement issued to E24 from Wizz Air’s communications director.
Only three of these destinations will lose permanent service to Wizz Air, while other destinations still see service to Eastern European hubs like Gdansk, while large cities like Oslo and Bergen see a wider variety of Eastern European destinations.
Internationally, Wizz Air intends to cut its offering to four out of its five destinations in the Mediterranean, including flights to Alicante, Spain; Chania, Greece; Gran Canaria, Spain and Split, Greece. These twice-weekly flights were planned to launch this June to target travelers for the summer travel season.
According to Wizz Air Communications Director Andras Rado, the decision was based on financial and commercial assessments, with capacity moving to other markets. He added that the last several months of commercial operations were not financially sustainable due to state aid given by Norway to airlines, allowing for “unfair market conditions.”
“Therefore, Wizz Air has decided to move capacity to markets where conditions are not distorted by protectionist stakeholders and where travelers can experience real competition and low ticket prices,” Rado said in a statement.
Last November, Wizz Air launched its initial venture into flying from Oslo to three of the largest cities in Norway up to four times daily, adding service to Bergen, Tromso and Trondheim. At the time, the Norwegian domestic aviation market was suffering, with large low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle weeks away from its bankruptcy filings. Wizz Air looked to capitalize off of a struggling Norwegian Air Shuttle to gain market share and capitalize from the carrier’s failures. Back in December, the airline presented ambitious plans to triple its passenger counts in Norway by 2023.
“We will be trying to change the pricing dynamic of the market,” Wizz Air CEO József Váradi said in a statement. “We’ve seen that Norway has been close to a duopoly between Norwegian and SAS. We want to break that duopoly and bring incredible alternatives.”
Troubles in Norway
Wizz Air has faced controversy for its expansion into Norway due to its lack of trade unions for employees. Several trade unions across Norway boycotted the airline for its anti-union practices, and almost all political parties denounced the airline’s positions on unions. Even Erna Solberg, the Prime Minister of Norway, publicly condemned the airline, stating, “I will not fly with an airline who refuse their workers to unionize.”
Initially, Wizz Air’s CEO struck a defensive tone on its anti-union practices, but the airline later clarified its position.
“After Wizz Air’s plans to start domestic flights in Norway became known, some incorrect allegations have been made about the company,” the airline said at the time. “Wizz Air wants to emphasize that it always complies with applicable laws and regulations in the countries in which the company operates, and that the employees are the company’s most important resource. Wizz Air follows current laws and regulations in all countries we operate in. That is crucial and indispensable for a compliant operation. We fully respect the Norwegian working life model, and will of course comply with the Norwegian regulations.”
In February, the airline closed its second base, Trondheim, after three months of operation, diverting two aircraft based there to its operations in Oslo, amid Covid-19 restrictions imposed in Norway, causing a lack of demand. These restrictions also caused the drawback of flight in Oslo, down to the barebones operation of four domestic routes to Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim and Tromso at low frequencies.
Additionally, the move comes a week after Norwegian Air Shuttle announced its successful restructuring after six months of bankruptcy protections. The Norwegian low-cost carrier has wiped out a large portion of its debt, raising $721 million to meet the requirements to exit bankruptcy protection. As part of its plan, Norwegian Air Shuttle will cut its fleet from 150 aircraft to 51 aircraft, eliminating its long-haul operations, with a new-found focus towards domestic operations in Norway and international flights to sunny destinations in the Mediterranean.
As for the low-cost niche, Norwegian Air Shuttle and new low-cost carrier Flyr intend to fill the void that Wizz Air once filled. Flyr plans to launch in late June using Boeing 737-800s, with its first domestic flights from Oslo to Tromso. Meanwhile, Norwegian Air Shuttle will use its simplified short-haul fleet of Boeing 737-800s to add capacity to the aforementioned domestic routes. Additionally, traditional service carriers like SAS will add further flights to Norway’s domestic market, leaving Wizz Air’s sizable presence well covered by other airlines.
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