Widerøe, the Norwegian airline that serves many small airports with short runways around the country, has until July 3 to respond to formal charges from European competition authorities. Widerøe has been accused of misusing its market position to secure its state-subsidized routes.
The European Free Trade Association (EFTA’s) Surveillance Authority (ESA) has arrived at a preliminary conclusion that Widerøe has violated competition rules by denying competitors like Danish Air Transport (DAT) access to receivers mounted in aircraft that made landing at the small aiports safer under difficult conditions. ESA suspects the Norwegian airline, which had the receivers in its aircraft, thus appeared to be the only one equipped to win bidding for the routes.
Widerøe denies the charges and must file a written response by July 3. ESA will then evaluate the case again and decide whether to fine the airline an mount equal to 10 percent of its annual revenues, or around NOK 400 million (USD 50 million).
“We fundamentally disagree with the charges,” stated Widerøe chief executive Stein Nilsen after the ESA charges were handed down last week. The case stems from a raid on the airline’s offices in 2014. Bodø-based Widerøe is the largest regional airline in the Nordic countries, with around 3,000 employees and fleet of 41 aircraft. The airline is owned by Norwegian transport firms Torghatten ASA and Fjord1 ASA.