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TRAVEL NEWS

What to expect when travelling through a Norwegian airport this summer

Whether you're travelling into the country, heading out or have a stopover, there are a few things you should be aware of when you pass through a Norwegian airport this summer. 

Pictured are beleaguered travellers at Gardermoen airport.
This is what you need to know if you are passing through a Norwegian airport this summer. File photo: Stranded passengers sit under the departures board at Oslo Gardermoen. Photo by Hakon Mosvold Larsen / Scanpix Norway / AFP.

Air travel is widely expected to return back to pre-pandemic levels this summer. However, not all airports are prepared for passengers’ return, and a summer of queues and delays is expected across Europe. 

But what about Norway? Are long lines and plenty of cancellations expected, are there Covid rules in place at airports or aboard flights, and which queue should Brits join when going through passport control? 

Can a summer of queues and delays be expected? 

Norwegian airports are not currently expecting extensive delays and queueing during the busy summer period, an issue which has hit other European airports hard

“(Norwegian airport operator) Avinor has spent a long time preparing for this summer, and we have increased staffing where it was needed,” Oslo Airport’s head of communication Harald Kvam told newspaper VG earlier in June. 

Despite Norway getting through the current wave of chaos relatively unaffected, problems across Europe can still have knock-ons for the country’s airports, no matter how well-prepared operators are. 

“Many of the planes that depart from Oslo Airport come from Europe, so if a plane arrives late at OSL, there is a high probability that the plane will depart with some delay,” Øystein Løwer, press officer of Avinor, told VG.

Strikes could lead to cancellations and disruption though

An ongoing air technician strike has already led to more than 60 cancelled flights. The Norwegian Air Traffic Technician Organisation (NFO) currently has 106 workers out on strike. The organisation could take out 39 more staff on Friday if an agreement isn’t reached.

Issues with flight cancellations could worsen at the beginning of next week as employer organisation the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) has announced a lockout which will start on Sunday if a solution to the current aircraft maintenance staff strike isn’t reached.

A lockout will mean all air technicians, even those not on strike, will be prevented from going to work to try and force an agreement.

Travellers whose flights are cancelled or affected by disruption should contact the airline they are supposed to be flying with. 

Around 1,000 pilots with Scandinavian airline SAS could go on strike later this month after trade unions issued notice of a strike to begin at the end of June. 

READ MORE: More flights in Norway cancelled due to technician strike

Are there any Covid rules in place in Norwegian airports? 

Currently, travellers are not required to observe social distancing or wear facemasks in Norwegian airports. Furthermore, all Covid restrictions across the country and there are no coronavirus rules barring people from coming to Norway, unlike last summer. 

Some airlines will ask passengers to wear masks aboard flights, so you will need to check their rules and regulations before flying. 

How has Brexit changed travel through Norwegian airports? 

Due to Brexit, Brits are no longer EU citizens, meaning there are new rules in place for crossing the border between the UK and Norway, which means some people will need to have their passports stamped while others won’t. 

British tourists and visitors in Norway will typically need to have their passports stamped by border police on entry and exit to help the authorities keep track of the length of their stay. 

This is because Brits who do not have residency are limited to stays of up to 90 days every 180 within the Schengen zone, of which Norway is a member, and stamps help keep track of this. 

Residents of Norway will not need to have their passport stamped, if your travel document is marked then don’t worry as your residence card supersedes any stamp. 

UK nationals travelling through Norwegian airports will also have to join the non-EU passport queue in most cases. However, Brits with a Norwegian residence card are able to join the EU passport queue if they wish. 

Know your rights if something goes wrong

EU air passenger rights apply to you if your flight is within the EU or Schengen zone, if it arrives in the EU/Schengen zone from outside the bloc and is operated by an EU-based airline, or if it departs from the EU/ Schengen zone.

Additionally, the EU rights apply only if you have not already received benefits (including compensation, re-routing, and assistance from the airline) for this journey under the law of a non-EU country.

In case of cancellation, you have the right to choose between getting your money back, getting the next available flight, or changing the booking completely for a later date. You are also entitled to assistance free of charge, including refreshments, food, accommodation (if you are rebooked to travel the next day), transport, and communication (two telephone calls, for example). This is regardless of the reasons for cancellation.

READ MORE: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled? 

Norway’s airports are all run by the same operator

All of Norway’s airports are run by the state-owned operator Avinor. This means if you are looking for information you should head to Avinor’s website. This also means you can check all arrivals and departures from their website if you need. 

However, if you have any issues, concerns or questions about your flight, you should contact the airline you are travelling with, rather than the airport. 

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For members

DRIVING

What’s it like driving from Scandinavia to the UK with a young family?

With the cost of airline tickets increasingly discouraging, is driving from Scandinavia to the UK becoming a more attractive option? The Local Denmark editor Michael Barrett gave it a try.

What’s it like driving from Scandinavia to the UK with a young family?

This summer has seen the return of large-scale international travel after a couple of Covid-hit years that have not been a picnic for anyone.

While the end of restrictions came as a relief, severe delays and disruptions at airports have added a new uncertainty around travel in 2022.

Scandinavia has not been an exception to this, with strikes at Scandinavian airline SAS and delays at Copenhagen and other airports among the problems faced by the sector.

Additionally, the increasing price of airline tickets in a time when inflation is hitting living costs across the board has become another factor discouraging air travel.

Finally, there’s the impact of air travel on climate to be considered. So is there an alternative?

The plan

Unlike colleagues who have made long distance journeys from France and Sweden respectively by rail, our plan was to make the trip from our home in Denmark to the UK by car.

There are a few reasons we picked this less climate-friendly option. I’ll readily admit they were driven (no pun intended) by our own needs, and not those of the planet. I hope we can offset this by using the train more than the car for longer journeys within Denmark, where costs are competitive.

Once we decided not to take our usual Ryanair flight, we only really considered driving. This is primarily because we have a toddler (age two), and felt that on such a long journey, the ability to control the timing and length of our stops would be crucial.

Secondly, the route would have taken longer and been more difficult logistically by rail, and would also have cost more. For example, we arrived at Harwich International Port late on a weekday evening, from where onward travel was to rural Suffolk. The thought of doing this on multiple local rail (possibly bus) services with a tired two-year-old makes me shudder a bit.

The route

From our home in central Denmark, we set out on a Monday morning and drove south on the E45 motorway, crossing the German border and continuing past Hamburg. We then got on to the A1 Autobahn and made for Bremen, where we stopped overnight.

Travelling non-stop, this journey takes just under four hours. It took us around five and a half. We stopped twice and were caught in traffic at Hamburg, where there is lot of construction going on around the city’s ring road.

Leaving early (just after 6am) the following day, we drove southwest and crossed the border into the Netherlands after a brief stop, but then managed to complete the journey to the port town Hook of Holland without a further break.

Our ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich was due to leave at 2:15pm and check-in time was an hour before that. This was the only deadline we had on our journey that would have been problematic to miss, so we gave ourselves plenty of time for the drive from Bremen. We arrived in Hook of Holland at around 11:30am.

Next was a six-hour ferry crossing to the East Anglian coast. We booked a cabin – they are inexpensive on daytime crossings – which gave us a chance to relax after the drive and our daughter a comfortable spot for her afternoon nap.

After a queue at customs in Harwich which took around 45 minutes, we were driving through the Essex countryside just before 9pm local time. The final drive to our destination took an hour and a half.

What went right

It’s not the most relevant information for anyone considering a similar trip, but I have to mention our car. A 2003 VW Polo we bought two years ago that has never had any mechanical issues, I was nevertheless braced for possible problems given its age (and ensured I had roadside assistance for outside of Denmark, more detail on this below).

However, there was not so much as a hint of an issue of any kind at any point during the 900 kilometres it covered on the journey, nor on the way home. Respect.

Our plan to split the trip into two days paid off. I think you could do it in one day (there are also overnight ferries) if you shared the driving and needed less flexibility. I should also recognise here that we live relatively close to Germany and our destination was close to the east coast of the UK. If you were travelling, for example, from Copenhagen to Cardiff, you’d have significantly more driving to do.

For us, knowing we could take long breaks if we needed them took a lot of stress out of the journey and allowed us to adapt to our toddler’s needs – changing nappies, finding a service station playground or stopping for an ice cream.

Stopping overnight also gave us the chance to see some new places (we switched things up on the way back and stayed in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands, instead of Bremen) and gave us a feeling of being on our own little bonus holiday.

What went wrong

In all, things went as well as we possibly could have hoped for and our conclusion after we got back home was that we’d like to travel this way again.

We were stopped by traffic police in Groningen city centre because I failed to understand signs showing we were entering a public transport-only zone. The officers who stopped us then offered to escort us to our accommodation a few streets away.

The ferry, operated by Stena Lines, had far less to do on board than we’d imagined there would be on a six-hour voyage. Two tiny off-duty shops, a cinema showing a superhero film and a minuscule play area (which our daughter nevertheless enjoyed) were about the extent of it. We hadn’t downloaded any films ourselves or brought much entertainment with us from the car, so we got a bit bored during the crossing. This is hardly a serious gripe and an easy one to rectify on the return trip.

The practical stuff 

Roadside assistance is obviously crucial for a journey like this, and it’s also important to double check your insurance is valid once you leave the country in which your car is registered and insured – Denmark, in our case.

Foreign authorities can check your insurance is valid. You can document this with the International Motor Insurance or “Green” card, which serves as proof you have motor insurance when you drive outside of the EU (you don’t need it within the EU).

This means that (in theory) you can be asked to present it in the UK. We weren’t asked for it.

The Green Card can be printed via your insurance company’s website. You’ll need your MitID or NemID secure login to access the platform and print off your document. Here is an example of the relevant page on the website of insurance company Tryg. If you can’t find the right section on your insurance company’s website, contact them by phone.

A number of Danish companies specialise in roadside assistance, including Falck and SOS Dansk Autohjælp. You can also include roadside assistance as part of your motor insurance package. We have the latter option, but in either case, I’d recommend calling your provider to make sure you are covered for breakdown in the EU and non-EU countries like the UK (if that’s where you’re going). Obviously, you should add such cover to your existing deal if you don’t have it, or change to a different deal.

The company which operates the ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich is Stena Line. Both directions have daytime and overnight departures.

There is a range of prices, and I couldn’t cover all the options here if I tried. However, I’d recommend a cabin on the daytime departures, because it’s inexpensive and gives you a bit of personal space and privacy, which is useful with children.

After calculating what our approximate fuel costs would be, the price of the hotel stays and ferry tickets, we found that the trip cost around 1,500 kroner more than we would have paid to fly from Billund Airport to London Stansted with checked-in baggage with Ryanair on the same dates. In return, we could take as much luggage as we want with us (and back), we got to see Bremen and Groningen and had our own car with us in the UK. This was more than worth the additional expense.

I also spent 50 kroner on a “DK” sticker for the tailgate of the car (because the car is so old it predates the EU number plates that include the country code) and 70 kroner for some headlight stickers which prevent full beam headlamps from dazzling oncoming drivers when you are driving on the left in the UK.

As I busily fixed them onto my car as we waited to disembark the ferry, however, a lorry driver parked next to us said these were, in fact, entirely unnecessary.

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