Airline ticket sales grind to a halt

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Airlines in Norway are experiencing a dive in ticket sales unlike anything they’ve seen since the terrorist bombings of 2001 or flu epidemics in 2006 and last year. Hardly anyone is buying tickets for business or pleasure.

Air space closures caused by the volcano in Iceland already are costing the airlines an estimated NOK 100 million a day in Norway. Now it seems no one dares to buy tickets for future travel either.

“No one is buying tickets,” Birgit Messiha of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS’) call center in Oslo told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Tuesday. “I haven’t had any sales today.”

Rival Norwegian Air also reports slow ticket sales. “It’s clear that sales are being affected by the uncertainty,” said commercial director Daniel Skjeldam.

Airlines and travel industry officials in Oslo were furious on Tuesday when a spokesman for travel insurance firm Europeiske told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that buying airline tickets now could be risky. The Europeiske official warned that since “everyone” now knows there’s a risk of volcanic disruption, passengers likely won’t get the same sort of coverage they’ve been getting the past few days. Now Europeiske is being threatened with lawsuits, for scaring away business from the already hard-pressed airlines.

Many hotels in Norway were also warning of imminent layoffs, because of the sudden drop-off in guests and cancellations of conferences. 

The volcano’s clouds of ash that halted air traffic for the past five days are “a tragedy” for the travel industry, said the leader of SAS’ call center, appropriately named Dorothy Billett (billett means ticket in Norwegian). “We just don’t know where this will end.”

Views and News staff