The timing was terrible: Trondheim’s main airport at Værnes was shut down by thick fog from Sunday afternoon, just as thousands of airline passengers were winding up their week-long autumn holidays known as høstferie. Travel for thousands more was disrupted on Monday, even after the airport finally could reopen for takeoffs and landings from 8am.
Long lines faced passengers showing up for flights and airport officials warned of delays throughout the day. The thick fog that had halted operations from around 4pm Sunday meant that aircraft and crews were not in place, so flights had to be cancelled or delayed again, and schedules were disrupted elsewhere around Norway.
“When we lack both aircraft and the people to run them, it’s difficult,” Lasse Bardal, airport chief for state aviation agency Avinor, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). The first flight to take off from Trondheim on Monday was commuter airline Widerøe’s route to Kristiansund at 7:55am. A flight to Stavanger at 8:10am, however, had to be cancelled.
Otherwise the airport needed to wait for the airlines to get their aircraft back in position as the fog finally eased. In the meantime, starting Sunday evening, passengers could only be offered bus transport to destinations on the West Coast like Bergen and Stavanger and as far away as Oslo, a trip over the mountains of Dovre and down through the valley of Gudbrandsdalen of nearly 600 kilometers.
Bus transport continued to be offered as an alternative to the stalled flights, “but it’s voluntary,” Bardal told NRK Monday morning. “Many are choosing to wait until the flights resume.” He hoped, though, that enough passengers would travel by bus, to relieve pressure on the airline seats that finally could be made available and on lines at the airport.
Forecast still foggy
The thick fog that settled over Værnes on Sunday is so unusual that Bardal said Avinor had not invested in the technical equipment that would allow flights to operate no matter how thick the fog is. Only Norway’s gateway airport, Oslo Lufthavn Gardermoen, has such equipment, he said.
State meteorologists called the weather situation at Værnes “very kinky” and couldn’t guarantee that more fog later on Monday wouldn’t disrupt flights once again. Fog was forecast through midday, with a 40 percent chance for only 200 meters visibility. At least 400 meters of visibility is needed for flights to operate safely.
All the hotels around the airport were packed with stranded airline passengers. Grete Elverum, receptionist at the nearby Scandic Hell Hotel, said that many who had been put up overnight were up early Monday at headed back to the terminal but “came back disappointed” upon learning their flights were still cancelled.
“We’re trying to help folks as best we can,” she told NRK, “and have brewed lots of coffee.”