Ambitious regional airline Widerøe has today announced the addition of two new international destinations to start later this year. From early September, the airline will fly to Alicante with its Embraer E2 jet, and to Faroe with its Dash 8 Q400. This comes as the airline continues to build its presence at Bergen, which is fast becoming a significant connecting hub in Norway.
Expanding a mini-hub
After a tumultuous 2020, Norwegian regional airline Widerøe has begun looking to the future with the announcement today of two new international routes. The airline, which became Europe’s busiest for a brief period last year, is capitalizing on its position at Flesland Airport in Bergen, and beginning to build out from there.
Simple Flying spoke to Widerøe’s director of regional network, Espen Bakke-Aas Steiro, about the decision to launch more international routes from Bergen. He commented that,
“Our main focus is the Norwegian market, but we want to look into the opportunity of growing in Europe. London is the biggest market, and we launched that last week. We want to build on our Bergen presence and give the market what it needs.”
The pandemic saw Widerøe realigning its position in Norway, and creating something of a mini-hub in Bergen. From its strategic position in the southwest of Norway, Widerøe is able to connect passengers not just within Norway itself, but also from international destinations, to virtually anywhere in the country. Steiro explained,
“It’s a high frequency hub. We have six connecting banks per day operating out of Bergen. During the pandemic, it was mainly a domestic focus, but post-pandemic, it’s natural to turn our attention to the international market also.”
Widerøe has positioned itself perfectly to capture connecting traffic, not just on its own metal, but also through its strategic airline partners. The airline already has codeshares and interlining agreements with major airlines, including SAS, Finnair, Norwegian and Air France, and is keenly seeking to add more in the future.
Widerøe goes for sun and sea
For the first time, Widerøe will launch a scheduled flight to a sun and sea destination. Alicante will join the network from September 4th, 2021, with the route operated once weekly using the airline’s stunning Embraer E190-E2 jet.
Services will depart on Saturdays from Bergen, flying as WF222 and with a departure time of 08:35. Arrival into Alicante is scheduled for 12:15. The return will depart as WF223 at 13:05, arriving back into Bergen at 16:40. Fares start at NOK 999 ($117) one way.
Despite the current challenges of flying internationally, Espen Bakke-Aas Steiro believes that there is hope that, by September, things will be better. He said,
“There’s a lot of demand for going to Spain. We hope that borders are going to be open going into September and October. We are open to flying even with testing still in place, but we hope that some restrictions will be lifted and that quarantine requirements will be eased.”
Unusually for a sun and sea route, Widerøe plans to operate the service all year round. Steiro noted that many Norwegians have holiday homes in the region, and that many enjoy overwintering in the mild Spanish climate. As such, he hopes that the route is sustainable as a permanent, full-year operation.
Raw experiences in the Faroe Islands
The second international destination announced today is from Bergen to Faroe. The route will launch on September 4th, and will be flown by the Dash 8 Q400. Flights will depart on Mondays and Fridays as WF290 at 10:30, arriving in Torshavn at 11:15. Return is scheduled at 11:45, arriving back in Bergen as WF291 at 14:25. Fares start at NOK 799 ($93) one way.
The addition of the Faroe Islands is keenly leveraging the strategic position of the airline’s Bergen hub. With the Islands reachable in just over an hour, the route is perfect for the Dash. Steiro believes there will be good demand on this route for the 78-seat aircraft, noting that,
“The Faroe Islands have a lot of nature, a lot of raw experiences, and some great dining. It’s a very interesting travel destination. There is also strong potential for business travel, as there are businesses on both sides that need to go back and forth.”
While many airlines have lamented the loss of business travel, Widerøe’s outlook is that a rebound is inevitable. The airline has maintained its vital connection to Aberdeen throughout the pandemic, providing travel for the oil workers who do not have the option of working from home. Similar demand is likely to exist between Norway and the Faroe Islands also.
The route was previously served by Atlantic Airways with its A320 aircraft. However, the airline operated its last service in June this year. Widerøe believes that its 78-seat Dash 8 Q400 is the perfect size to capitalize on both the leisure and business travel demand in this market.
Have you flown Widerøe yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.