Airlines brace for Wizz competition

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Both Scandinavian Airlines and Norwegian Air claim they’re not being scared off by new looming competition from Hungarian carrier Wizz Air, even in the midst of the Corona crisis. Norwegian was quick to match at least some of Wizz’s introductory fares in November, but those offered in the meantime remained much higher at both Norwegian and SAS.

Wizz Air already has been flying internationally from several airports in Norway. Now it’s announced its entry into the domestic market with flights between four Norwegian cities. PHOTO: Wizz Air

Wizz Air announced earlier this week that it intended to expand its service within Norway, with new domestic routes from Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen (OSL) to Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsø. The airline, which also flies internationally from other Norwegian airports, promoted fares of as low as NOK 199 (USD 22) each way.

By Thursday Norwegian was advertising the same low fare on some of the same routes in November, when Wizz is due to start up. “We compete against Wizz Air on many (international) routes,” Norwegian’s CEO Jacob Schram told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) right after Wizz’ announced entry into Norway’s domestic market. “We’re used to competition, and when Wizz (expands in) Norway, we’ll have to deal with that.”

“We’ve been fighting like David against Goliath since we were born, so we’re prepared for more competition ahead also,” Schram added.

Norwegian’s NOK 199 fares weren’t always showing as available, however, with one day in November offering fares of NOK 379 and NOK 519 for the lowest restricted tickets and NOK 1,207 for a flexible ticket between Oslo and Bergen. Norwegian’s low fares, including the one for NOK 519, don’t allow for carry-on baggage, so anyone needing just an overnight bag would need to pay even more.

SAS, meanwhile, didn’t seem to be matching Wizz’s lowest fares, at least not yet, with all of its lowest-fare tickets on that same day in November selling for NOK 479 each way. SAS’ CEO Rickard Gustafson claimed his airline, however, was also accustomed to competition.

“If it’s not them (Wizz) it’s someone else,” SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson told DN. Both Norwegian and SAS have been struggling during the Corona crisis, with most of their fleets grounded and company officials appealing for more capital and state aid. Both are offering only limited service at present because of Corona-induced travel restrictions, but hope to be taking off with more flights as soon as possible.

“We’ll have to adjust to what customers are willing to pay,” Gustafson said, “but it’s clear that this (NOK 199) is a price level that will be incredibly difficult to be profitable.”

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund