How Norway airline Widerøe is weathering huge COVID-19 storm so well

  1. Widerøe is primarily a domestic airline operating a fleet of Dash 8s and Embraer 190E2s on a dense route network, mainly along the west coast of Norway.
  2. For some time during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, Widerøe was Europe’s busiest airline with close to 200 flights a day.
  3. Widerøe connects remote places in the country, sometimes flying very short hops of just a few kilometers and then sometimes in extreme winter conditions.

But that’s not the full story. Widerøe is one of the most aggressive airlines in driving environment and environmental change. It is exploring using all electric aircraft, where it can in the network, as the Norwegian government wants the first all-electric domestic flights to take off around the middle of the decade.

Read – or listen to – what Jens Flottau and Stein Nilsen talk about on the CAPA – Centre for Aviation program event here. First, they take a look at the current COVID-19 situation in aviation.

Jens Flottau:

Let us know how Widerøe operated during the pandemic. You had to cut back as many others did, but not as extremely as many of your [inaudible 00:03:14], right?

Stein Nilsen:

Yeah, that’s correct, but for us as everyone else in the travel industry, it’s been a really tough 15 months there from March 2020. But we have a very, very special network in Norway. It’s more like a public transportation system in some areas of the rural parts of Norway, especially. So of course, it has been a lot of focus on keeping a good transportation system also during the pandemic.

We have in fact been flying around 70 to 80% of normal capacity, most of the periods during the last 15 months. We have been lower in very, very special pandemic situations, but around 70 to 80%, we have flown. Half of that 50% is the PSO route network in Norway, and that’s a very crucial network for the rural areas.

We were asked by the ministry of transportation to keep up a high production level on that network, despite of low cabin factors to support the local communities in keeping a good transportation offer also in a very special situation. Of course, we are very glad for that support of the ministry of transportation and there is also awarded some extra compensation to us and to other operators on the PSO network in Norway.

We have a small airline, Swedish airline, called Air Leap, and we have a lift transport in the northern part of Norway, also flying on the PSO network. So the government in Norway has done a lot of extra and extraordinary efforts to keep a good transportation system going through the pandemic.

Jens Flottau:

So you’re saying 70 to 80% of your Wideroe capacity was still in place, but can you say how much passenger numbers dropped?