OSL wants more long-haul flights

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Avinor, the state agency running Norway’s airports, is joining calls for more non-stop flights from  Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen (OSL) to destinations in North- and South America, Asia and Africa. Norwegian travelers shouldn’t have to fly to other European airport hubs before heading on to where they want to go, claims Avinor’s boss.

Planes docked at Oslo Airport's international terminal. Norwegian Air's rapid intercontinental expansion drew criticism from the Civil Aviation Authority after it discovered 21 serious regulatory breaches during an inspection in November. Customers lodged 29,000 complaints, mostly over cancellations and delays. Meanwhile, US airlines and unions lobbied authorities to ban Norwegian from flying to the States, arguing the carrier has breached an agreement by hiring cheaper Thai staff. PHOTO: Oslo Lufthavn AS

Avinor, which runs Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen (OSL) along with most other airports in Norway, is calling for far more non-stop intercontinental flights to and from OSL.   PHOTO: Oslo Lufthavn AS

“We think it’s wrong that ticket income from Norwegian passengers should land in Copenhagen, London or Frankfurt,” Dag Falk-Petersen, chief executive of Avinor, told newspaper Aftenposten this week. He agrees with pilots for Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), who also recently called on SAS to launch more long-haul flights from Oslo.

The SAS pilots are worried that if SAS fails to add new non-stop intercontinental routes from Oslo, the airline will lose passengers and market share to rival Norwegian Air, which launched its own long-haul service last year to New York and Bangkok and has ambitious plans to add many more intercontinental routes, especially to the US. Norwegian’s service has been plagued by problems, not least related to its new Boeing Dreamliner jets that were ordered to serve them, but passengers have clearly been attracted by the prospect of being able to fly non-stop from Oslo to cities like Los Angeles and Orlando without have to change planes along the way.

Long list of desired destinations
Falk-Petersen believes Norway has the passenger base needed to make more long-haul flights profitable, and that demand is high for intercontinental travel direct from Oslo. Avinor has identified several North American destinations that it thinks should be served non-stop to and from Oslo, including Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Washington DC, Houston, Philadelphia and Toronto.

Avinor also sees demand for non-stop flights between Oslo and Sao Paulo in Brazil, Johannesburg in South Africa and between Oslo and Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Delhi in Asia.

Such flights, Falk-Petersen told Aftenposten, “would offer better service for passengers and strengthen Norwegian business. Every single new airline route has large spin-off effects.”

Oslo currently has far fewer intercontinental routes than either Copenhagen or Stockholm, both of which are actively seeking even more. Helsinki is also being promoted heavily, not least by its national carrier Finnair, as a major hub for non-stop flights to myriad destinations in Asia. That can come at the expense of OSL, and Norwegian passengers.

New Avinor CEO Dag Falk-Petersen PHOTO: Avinor

Avinor CEO Dag Falk-Petersen PHOTO: Avinor

“The values created by Norwegian passengers must benefit Norwegian aviation,” Falk-Petersen said. “It’s a priority for us to attract more long-distance routes to and from OSL.” The airport would thus generate more landing fees and other income, he said, which also can benefit Avinor’s operations around the country.

OSL is currently undergoing major expansion and Avinor thinks the potential for more long-distance routes is high. Falk-Petersen wants to attract more airlines and routes by offering efficiency and competitive fees.

SAS and Norwegian both say they’re planning more long-distance routes, even though SAS is also under pressure to maintain its hub in Copenhagen and add flights from Stockholm. SAS spokeman Knut Morten Johansen told Aftenposten, however, that “it’s not a case of either Kastrup (Copenhagen) or OSL, but both. SAS definitely wants to be in place with a good long-distance offer from OSL in the years ahead, when we expect growth.”

Norwegian officials have said they’re “very satisfied” with the passenger response to their new non-stop flights to New York, Bangkok, Fort Lauderdale, Oakland (across the bay from San Francisco), Los Angeles and Orlando. “New routes from OSL are absolutely something we evaluate constantly,” said Norwegian spokesman Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund