Former Braathens Owner Eyes New Norwegian Narrowbody Airline

Another new airline is on the horizon, this time targeting domestic Norwegian routes. Led by industry veteran Erik Braathens, the Oslo based airline wants to begin operations next year and is targeting a fleet of five narrowbody aircraft to launch.

Experienced aviator Erik Braathen is eyeing an airline startup next year. Photo: Airbus

An airline for the new normal

As the COVID pandemic continues to bite chunks out of the aviation industry, more evidence is coming to light of some seeing opportunity among the chaos. In the last couple of months alone, we’ve seen airline startups in Canada, Germany, and India sharing their stories. Now, it seems it is the turn of Norway to get a new airline.

While it doesn’t yet have a name, the new airline is keen to become a company that is set up for the ‘new normal’ of flying. The startup already has 25 employees and is working to raise capital to begin operations. It is being led by industry veteran Erik Braathen, who told Norwegian publication NRK about his plans. He said,

“We believe that this industry will change significantly in the future. We believe that the timing for this is good, because we do not believe that the market will return to where it was before the corona pandemic.”

Braathens SAFE
Erik Braathen is the former CEO of Braathens SAFE. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia

Braathen has been a board member of Norwegian for some years and is the previous CEO of Braathens SAFE. This Norwegian airline operated from 1946 until its merger with SAS in 2004.

Aviation has been a family business for generations, the previous airline having been launched by his grandfather Ludvig G. Braathen and subsequently led by his father, Bjørn G. Braathen. Erik took the helm from his father in 1989 at the age of just 34. His brother, Per Braathen, owns Swedish carrier Braathens Regional Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy protection in April.

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Five narrowbody aircraft required

The initial plan for the airline is to have a base at Oslo and to operate mainly domestic flights in Norway. Braathen says he is looking at aircraft like the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320, and that the airline would target a fleet of five to begin services.

The airline would compete with incumbents Norwegian and SAS. Photo: Norwegian

Speaking to another Norwegian outlet TU, Braathen said he believed now was a good time to snag some cheap, modern aircraft for the start of his new airline. He said,

“We can rent modern aircraft at a reasonable price, hire the best employees, and build a fully digital company with little complexity, which means we get low costs and can make money with fewer aircraft.”

The key to his success, he believes, will be to launch with a business model that doesn’t depend on getting people to fly more frequently. Braathen believes that his plan to orchestrate flight times and destinations in the right way will make it the best choice when alternative transport means are unfeasible.

A surge in the Norwegian market

Although incumbent operators Norwegian and SAS are struggling due to the crisis, other airlines believe there is a market ripe for the picking. European low-cost airline Wizz this week announced a new base in Oslo and is planning to begin domestic services in Norway later in the year.

Former Braathens Owner Eyes New Norwegian Narrowbody Airline
Wizz is planning its own domestic Norwegian operation. Photo: Wizz Air

If the new Braathen-run airline does take off as planned, Wizz could see some unexpected competition on its planned routes in Norway. Braathens hopes to start service in early 2021 and is targeting rapid growth, aiming to have a workforce of 400 employees by 2022.

Do you think Norway needs another domestic airline? Let us know in the comments.