Most of the airlines serving Norway said they expected relatively “normal” traffic over the weekend, but the definition of “normal” has taken on new meaning. More flights were cancelled Friday morning but air space was officially open.
The fickle nature of Iceland’s volcanic activity, and the potentially dangerous clouds of ash and debris that it produces, will continue to affect air travel for weeks if not months ahead. Not even the most highly educated geologists, meteorologists or air traffic controllers can make certain forecasts.
The airlines also face challenges getting and keeping their aircraft and crews in place to run scheduled operations. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) wasn’t running flights from Kristiansand early Friday morning, and that disrupted traffic and connections in Oslo.
Flights were resuming by 9am, and once again, all airline passengers were told to just stay in touch with the airlines to see whether fights were running. Those holding tickets with flights scheduled over the weekend were told to show up at the airport as usual.
Both SAS and Norwegian Air have reported heavy first-quarter losses and have estimated losses of tens of millions of more since Iceland’s volcano first started grounding traffic last week.
SAS reported a pre-tax loss of SEK 972 million, but that was actually better than some analysts had expected. The losses included the costs of another major restructuring program that’s expected to save the airline money in the long run.
Norwegian Air reported a pre-tax loss of NOK 275 million, and while CEO Bjørn Kjos said he “never likes to lose money,” the wintry first quarter is always the toughest. On the bright side, Norwegian’s passenger counts have more than doubled in the past three years and now he’s looking east towards new possibilities in Finland and with airline Finnair. “Finland is an untouched market,” Kjos told newspaper Aftenposten.