An acute shortage of pilots has forced Norway’s short-haul domestic airline Widerøe to cancel flights around the country this summer. The transport ministry is threatening to cut some of the subsidies it pays Widerøe to serve small airports if the cancellations are too widespread.
Newspaper Helgelands blad reported on Wednesday that Widerøe suddenly found itself with fewer pilots than it expected.
“Unfortunately we’ve had more retirements and people on leave than normal,” Silje Brandvoll, communications director for Widerøe, told Helgelands blad. “We therefore have to cut production. We’re doing this well before folks are due to travel, so that we can find solutions together.”
Widerøe plans to cut its commercial route program this autumn. All passengers will receive offers on alternative departures or routes, Brandvoll said. She added that the airline “expects to operate within the framework that the transport ministry has set for the year as a whole.”
The ministry, which has contracts with Widerøe to serve various routes, is following the situation closely. “We have imposed strict demands for regularity in the contract with the company,” ministry spokesman Tor Midtbø told Helgelands blad. “We have reason to believe that the threat of funds being withheld weighs heavily when the airline sets its priorities.”
There were no immediate reports of passengers being stranded, nor were any flights shown cancelled from Oslo as experienced with Norwegian Air last week. It also suffered from a shortage of pilots, after Norwegian set up more flights at the start of the summer holiday season than it had pilots to fly. Only after the airline bypassed the pilots’ union and appealed directly to pilots with a pay offer of double overtime did Norwegian get enough pilots to staff its flights. The union has contended Norwegian violated its collective bargaining agreement by doing so, but there’s been no consequences for the airline so far apart from the ill effects of all their unhappy passengers last week.