Norway’s SAS-owned Widerøe; Europe’s 15th busiest airline by number of flights this winter

Logo: WideroeIt may come as a surprise to many that an obscure airline in Norway, which flies mostly domestic routes using turboprops, operates more scheduled flights in Europe this winter than all but 14 other airlines. Since 2002 Widerøe has been 100% owned by SAS and last year reported the biggest profit in its 70-year history. This year the airline, which operates a fleet of almost 30 Bombardier Dash 8-100s (39 seats), -300s (50 seats) and -400s (78 seats), will break the two million passenger mark for the first time.

Chart: Wideroe demand Monthly passengers (millions)
Source: ERA, SAS

Traffic in 2008 is up around 4%. Annual average load factors in recent years have been climbing steadily and reached a peak last year of 59.4%. This winter the airline will serve 38 airports in Norway and five in other countries. Around 83% of capacity is deployed on domestic routes with Aberdeen, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Murmansk and Newcastle also receiving flights. Bodo is the airline’s busiest airport with 198 weekly departures on 11 routes.

Airport Weekly departures Weekly seats Routes
Bodo (BOO) 198 7,882 11
Oslo Torp (TRF) 120 7,304 4
Tromso (TOS) 154 6,656 12
Trondheim (TRD) 133 6,407 9
Bergen (BGO) 83 4,900 7
Oslo (OSL) 114 4,765 6
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 3 November 2008

According to the airline’s annual report Widerøe’s share of the Norwegian domestic market was 12.8% in 2007, up from 12.4% in 2006.

PSO routes account for one-third of capacity

Norway’s geography and terrain makes air services an important part of basic transportation. In 2007 32% of Widerøe’s capacity was flown on so-called Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes which are supported by government funds. The airline now operates 87% of the PSO routes in Norway.

Widerøe’s network can be split into three main areas. Routes between small Norwegian airports requiring short take-off and landing (STOL) capability, routes to Copenhagen and Oslo to feed SAS services, and niche routes to the likes of Aberdeen and Newcastle in the UK.

Q400 grounding required re-allocating of capacity

The airline suffered from the decision by parent company SAS to ground all of its Q400s last October after SAS had suffered a number of landing incidents involving the aircraft type. Widerøe coped with this by re-allocating capacity to the -100s and -300s and by leasing in Q400s from other operators. As the traffic figures for the last three months of 2007 show, the airline coped with this unexpected turn of events very well, with no discernible drop in passenger numbers.


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