Norwegian airline Widerøe to make cuts with 4,000 flights to be cancelled

Norway’s regional airline Widerøe is to cut 15 percent of departures on its short-haul timetable, totalling 4,000 flights annually.

Norwegian airline Widerøe to make cuts with 4,000 flights to be cancelled
Photo: Valentin Hintikka /Creative Commons

The company announced on Monday that it would make significant cuts to its short-haul services, broadcaster NRK reports.

The remote Evenes municipality is expected to particularly feel the effects of the decision, with routes to northern destinations Bodø and Andenes both scrapped by the company, according to the report.

The changes will take effect from May 4th this year.

North Norway will be hit most by the cutbacks in general, with routes to and from Bodø and Tromsø to go. However, connections to Oslo and Bergen will also be affected.

“We are unfortunately cutting necessary public transport in regional Norway,” Widerøe CEO Stein Nilsen said in a press statement reported by NRK.

“Since the introduction of the passenger tax in 2016 we have struggled to find profitability on the shortest routes with the smallest planes. The negative trend has intensified each year,” Nilsen told the broadcaster.

The devaluation of the Norwegian krone, old aircraft and general market development in Norway were also cited as factors behind the cuts.

“In total, the depreciation of the Norwegian krone and tax increases amount to 400 million over two or three years. We can't withstand that,” the CEO said.

Routes for which Widerøe is paid by the Norwegian state to fly, known as FOT routes, will not be affected by the cuts.

READ ALSO: Struggling Norwegian lingers in the red, cuts capacity again

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Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany