Norway’s domestic and regional airline promises to deploy more planes next year, as counties and the government voice complaints.
Widerøe says it will add two more aircraft to its fleet next year, after coming under harsh criticism for its frequent cancellations in northern Norway.
The airline also says it is strengthening the training of pilots and cabin crew to help ensure there will no cancellations due to a lack of available personnel.
Representatives from the counties of Nordland and Finnmark met with the airline yesterday to discuss the company’s frequent cancellations in the north, specifically at short take-off and landing (STOL) airports, Norway Today reports.
“We are worried about the many cancellations that have happened in the STOL network in northern Norway in recent months,” said Geir Ove Bakken, who is responsible for culture and transport in Finnmark.
“It was important for us to meet with Widerøe now. We are raising this concern considering that we are now entering the time of the year where it is possible to expect weather cancellations.”
Together with Nordland council member Svein Eggesvik, Bakken met Widerøe’s commercial director Christian Skaug and the airline’s director for strategy and infrastructure, Terje Skram, at the carrier’s headquarters in Bodø.
“My understanding is that Widerøe regards the situation as serious. If people can’t trust that their flight is departing on schedule, it will be detrimental for the company’s reputation,” said Eggesvik.
Clash over flights
Widerøe has clashed with the Norwegian government in recent months over the imposition of a new tax on domestic routes in the country. In late September it was reported that a quarter of the carrier’s fleet was out of order due to various technical factors.
Last month the government demanded NOK 4.7 million (€0.5 million) in subsidies back from the airline due to too many cancellations in the STOLport network.
It is the seventh consecutive year that the state is withdrawing part of its compensation to Widerøe.
The company receives NOK 450 million per year from the state for servicing Norway’s STOLport network. If there are too many delays or cancelled flights, the authorities have the right to withdraw parts of these subsidies.
In the contract between Norway and Widerøe, the airline commits itself to operating 98.5% of its flights on schedule.
In the period from April 2017 to March 2018, it achieved 97.5% compliance, which means the state requires Widerøe to pay back roughly 1% of the amount.
“Widerøe operates in one of the world’s most demanding areas, both geographically and climatically. Periodically, weather conditions and other operating conditions may interfere with the schedules that we plan,” Silje Brandvoll, the carrier’s communications director recently told the Tromsø local newspaper Nordlys.