Continuing its aggressive expansion, Hungary’s Wizz Air is about to start flying domestic routes in Norway. The ultra-low-cost airline is opening a base at Oslo’s Gardermoen Airport in November and will begin flying on three domestic routes. It expands on Wizz Air’s already considerable interest in Norway.
Wizz’s foray into Norway’s domestic market was announced by Wizz CEO József Váradi at a media conference this week.
“We’ve seen that Norway has been close to a duopoly between Norwegian and SAS. We want to break that duopoly and bring in credible alternatives,” he said.
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If we do well, we’ll step up and take more market share, says Wizz CEO
Wizz Air plans to house two single-aisle Airbus aircraft at Gardermoen. From there, the planes will fly to Bergen, Tromsø, and Trondheim. At this stage, flights to and from Bergen and Trondheim will run four times a day. Flight to and from Tromsø will operate twice a day.
“Once we are in the market, we will get more appetite for it and do more. Ultimately our long-term goal is to become one of the most significant airlines in the country,” said Mr. Váradi.
“We think simple. If we get the results we want from the market, then we step up and do more.”
Wizz Air’s aggressive appetite for growth will have local airlines SAS and Norwegian worried. Wizz Air already has a strong presence around Norway’s airports. It flies to 11 airports in Norway from destinations around Europe. All up, Wizz Air operates 48 routes into Norway. That includes eight routes into Gardermoen, eleven routes into Bergen, four routes into Tromsø, and six routes into Trondheim. According to OAG, Wizz Air offered 2.3 million seats in and out of Norway in 2019.
“We are very excited about the Norwegian market. We are not the largest, but we have a significant footprint,” said the Wizz Air CEO.
Fare war looms as incumbent airlines slash prices
It’s potentially good news for Norwegians with talk of a fare war looming. There are reports SAS and Norwegian have already dropped fares to match what Wizz offers.
While Wizz Air is offering starter fares of 199 kroner to fly between Oslo and Tromsø, SAS typically sells seats on the route for about 999 kroner. Norwegian comes in slightly lower, at about 829 kroner. While both SAS and Norwegian have better frequencies than what Wizz Air will initially offer, Wizz’s appetite for expansion suggests it won’t be long before it catches up.
Meanwhile, it appears Mr Váradi isn’t the only person keen for a slice of the Norwegian domestic market. FlightGlobal reported yesterday that prominent Norwegian businessman and former airline executive Erik Braathen also wants to start up a local domestic airline sometime in 2021.
“We believe it is the right time to start a new airline. We will be able to lease modern aircraft for a reasonable price, hire top-tier staff, and build a digital company with less complexity in order to lower cost and achieve profitability with fewer airplanes.”
With a population of less than 5.5 million, Norway’s domestic airline market risks getting flooded with capacity. In the short term, that’s good news for passengers chasing a cheap airfare. But in the longer term, it creates an unstable airline industry, and that’s bad news for Norway. Still, if there’s one airline that knows how to fly through market turbulence and grab a slice of the pie, it’s Wizz Air.