Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) was Norway’s dominant airline for decades, but for the past several years it’s been severely challenged by new competition. Rival carrier Norwegian Air now aims to be bigger than SAS not only domestically, but internationally as well.
A recent study by Norway’s civilian aviation administration Avinor shows that SAS has lost market share to Norwegian over the past two years.
In 2007, SAS carried fully 61 percent of passengers on domestic flights within Norway. Today SAS can claim only 49 percent of the market, while Norwegian has 35 percent and smaller carriers the remainder.
SAS’ loss has been Norwegian’s gain, with its market share within Norway rising by 45 percent.
Norwegian, which launched service as a cut-rate carrier, also has plans now to enter the long-haul market. It already has flights to cities all over Europe, and intends to acquire as many as 15 long-distance aircraft.
Norwegian boss Bjørn Kjos, a pilot himself, told financial news service E24 that Norwegian’s first flights will take off for Asia and the US next year, probably during the busy summer travel season.
Norwegian currently has 51 aircraft spread over 200 routes and serving around 90 destinations. Eventual flights to Asia and the US, though, will likely meet stiff fare competition from SAS and major international carriers like Finnair, which has targeted the Asia market through its Helsinki hub, and Icelandair and United, which specialize in trans-Atlantic service to the US.
Finnair recently reported a 28 percent increase in its May traffic to Asian destinations, where it claims its routes from Oslo are the fastest. United, meanwhile, is taking over Continental, which currently runs one of the few non-stop flights from Oslo to the US.