A group of former airport directors behind the investment firm Jotunfjell Partners has struck a deal to buy and reopen the Rygge Airport south of Moss. The airport was shut down last year after Ryanair pulled out in response to a new controversial airline seat tax in Norway.
Jotunfjell Partners has bought all the shares in Rygge Sivile Lufthavn for an undisclosed amount from its former owners Thon Holding, industrial firm Orkla and Østfold Energi. Jotunfjell, which has operated duty-free sales and other retailing ventures at airport including Rygge, has a goal of resuming airport operations again, hopefully next year or in 2019.
“A condition for succeeding in this is to get airlines and passengers back at Rygge,” Jotunfjell spokesman Geir Arne Drangeid told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday night. “That’s no easy job, but we are prepared to try.”
Drangeid, who spent many years working as spokesman for the Aker industrial concern, is now a partner at the First House communications and consulting firm run by Per Høiby, a former adviser to two defense ministers who also is the brother of Crown Princess Mette-Marit. Another brother, Espen Høiby, is a former SAS captain who since has been running an airline crewing agency that’s highly unpopular with pilots at Norwegian Air, who claim it will undermine their jobs at the airline. Norwegian is among the airlines targeted by the new Rygge owners.
Other members of the Jotunfjell group include Espen Ettre, who worked at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen for more than 20 years, including as director for real estate and commercial development. He’s now on the board of Rygge Sivile Lufthavn.
NRK reported that Alf Reidar Fjeld, former head of Sandefjord lufthavn Torp, is also among the group along with Roel Huinink, who has worked at both the Schipol and Arlanda airports in Amsterdam and Stockholm.
“We have tried to put together a group of experienced people,” Drangeid told NRK. “These are folks who have operated and been involved with airports for many, many years.”
Jotunfjell now must win a concession from the Norwegian defense department (Forsvaret), which currently controls operations at Rygge, to use the runway at Rygge, and operate commercial airline traffic. It also needs agreements with airlines to use the airport.
“We must show the airlines that we have a competitive airport,” Drangeid said. A Norwegian Air spokesperson, meanwhile, told NRK it was “too early” to comment on whether it might use Rygge. Another new local airline, FlyViking, which recently started operations in Northern Norway, expressed some interest.
“We’re considering all possibilites,” FlyViking’s managing diretor Stein Terje Dahl told NRK. “For now we’re staying up north, but we will expand our routes in 2018 and then we won’t rule anything out.”