photo: Widerøe / Pratt & Whitney

Widerøe: Tax will lead to route closures

The Norwegian government will reduce its controversial air tax on domestic routes – but only slightly.

Norway’s regional carrier Widerøe is highly dissatisfied with the country’s new state budget revealed this week in which the government proposes a smaller-than-promised reduction of a controversial air passenger tax introduced in 2016.

The proposed reduction is not at all acceptable, Widerøe says. It is reacting by announcing the imminent closure of some of its routes and cuts in the number of frequencies on other routes.

When the flight tax was introduced in Norway two years ago, it was NOK 80 (€8.50) plus VAT per passenger per trip, later rising to NOK 83. VAT has also risen.

Now the government suggests cutting the tax to destinations in Norway and Europe to NOK 75 – while hiking it upwards on flights to destinations outside Europe to NOK 200 per passenger.

“Widerøe has read the state budget and must note that despite the differentiation in airline tax it is far from sufficient to secure the conditions necessary for the further development of the commercial short-haul network in the Norwegian districts,” the airline says in a statement.

Lack of understanding
It had hoped, it continues, that understanding about the “important public transport in the districts of Norway” had increased and that this would have led to better conditions for strengthening air traffic across the country.

But the change in tax risks leading instead to fewer routes and fewer departures, Widerøe warns.

“We will now review our offers and consider which routes should be reduced and which destinations will be cut out of the Widerøe network. Widerøe will return on this issue as soon as it is clear. It will take a couple of weeks,” the company says.

At the end of September, it was reported that Widerøe had grounded 12 of its Bombardier Dash-8 turboprops following a large and coincidental number of challenging operational incidents, from lightning strikes and bad weather to bird strikes and technical failures. A significant number of its flights had to be cancelled in the subsequent weeks.

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