Airline passengers warned of delays

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UPDATED: A lack of air traffic controllers on duty in southern Norway has led to delayed flights in and out of OSL Gardermoen, Oslo’s main airport and widely viewed as the gateway to Norway. Staffing shortages forced some airports to close at various points earlier this week, and new delays loom this weekend.

Avinor is the state agency in charge of the airports and air traffic controllers, and admits to “staffing challenges” during July because of traditional summer holidays. Newspaper VG reported on Wednesday that the next two weekends may be “painful” for airline passengers, because of “gaping holes” in the lists of air traffic controllers on duty.

Airlines demand explanation
While 20 are certified to guide traffic in and out of the Torp Airport at Sandefjord, which also serves Oslo-bound passengers, only nine are available to work this month. Nicholas Lorvik, who represents air traffic controllers at the Røyken control center, told VG there’s a lack of as many as 30 controllers through August.

“Today we’re having some challenges tied to staffing in the tower at Gardermoen, and we expect delays throughout the morning,” Avinor spokesperson Mariann Horness told NRK.no on Monday. On Wednesday, frustrated executives at SAS, Widerøe and Norwegian Air called Avinor officials in for a meeting on Thursday, to get an explanation.

“We’re asking for some answers on what Avinor is doing to secure airline schedules this summer,” Anne Sissel Skånvik, communications director for Norwegian, told VG. Norwegian has been among the airlines facing delays, through no fault of its own.

Training challenges
A shortage of air traffic controllers, who nearly went out on strike last week but ultimately came to terms with their employers’ representative Spekter, has also affected airports in Stavanger earlier this summer and now two other airports near Oslo, Torp at Sandefjord and Rygge at Moss, face the most serious delays. Both Torp and Rygge were also forced to close Monday night.

The delays at OSL Gardermoen were mostly said to be around 20 minutes to an hour earlier this week, caused by air traffic controllers taking off on their authorized holidays during the busy summer travel season and a lack of others to take over their work. Avinor officials admit staffing is difficult because of ongoing training demands for other staffers that haven’t yet been met.

“It’s limited as to how many we can train at the same time,” Avinro spokesman Ove Narvesen told VG. Others have cited increased traffic through Norwegian airports and that Avinor cut back on training earlier, to cut costs.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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