Wizz Underestimated The Challenges Of Norway

Hungarian ultra-low-cost carrier Wizz Air is an airline that operates a widespread model of expansion. Indeed, some of its most recent growth has seen it establish a subsidiary as far away as Abu Dhabi. However, it hasn’t succeeded in penetrating every market that it has tried to enter. Specifically, Norway proved a particularly difficult endeavor.

Wizz Air Getty
Wizz Air’s presence in the Norwegian domestic market lasted less than a year. Photo: Getty Images

A brief history of Wizz Air in Norway

Wizz Air’s involvement in the Norwegian airline market began last November, when it launched a base at the country’s Oslo Gardermoen Airport (OSL). From here, it served three domestic routes, and, in doing so, looked to break the near-duopoly that SAS and Norwegian had commanded over the country’s internal network.

The destinations for Wizz Air’s Norwegian domestic services were Bergen Flesland Airport (BGO), Tromsø Langnes Airport (TOS), and Trondheim Værnes Airport (TRD). The project didn’t get off to the best start, after Wizz ran into controversy in Norway regarding its anti-union stance. However, it later changed this to allow employees to unionize after all.

While Wizz still serves international destinations from Oslo, it terminated its domestic flights in June 2021, after just seven months. But what exactly went wrong?

Wizz Underestimated The Challenges Of Norway
Wizz Air served three domestic destinations from its Oslo base. Photo: Getty Images

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Underestimated the market

Wizz Air ultimately found that it could not penetrate the Norwegian domestic market due to the greater levels of support offered to local airlines. This led the Hungarian carrier to refocus its resources, hence the termination of its domestic routes in June.

Speaking recently in an exclusive webinar interview with Simple Flying, Wizz Air’s Chief Commercial Officer, George Michalopoulos, explained that:

The challenge, and what we underestimated, is how much the system supports the local carriers. At some point, we just realized this is not going to be an equal playing field, we won’t be able to compete on equal terms. We had so many other opportunities knocking on the door that we decided it’d be a better use of capacity to shift that capacity elsewhere.”

Wizz Air & Widerøe
Wizz found that the Norwegian market favored local carriers like Widerøe. Photo: Andrzej Otrębski via Wikimedia Commons

Flyr enters the scene

Since Wizz left the domestic market, another carrier has entered it. The airline in question is Oslo-based low-cost startup Flyr, which operated its first flight on June 30th this year. It plied one of the corridors that Wizz attempted to penetrate, namely Oslo-Tromsø.

Interestingly enough, among Flyr’s other domestic destinations are Bergen and Trondheim. It will be interesting to see whether this carrier has more luck than Wizz on these corridors. Based on Michalopoulos’s assertion that the market favors local carriers, these routes may prove to be a more successful endeavor than when Wizz tried its luck on them.

Flyr will also fly domestically to Bodø (BOO) and Harstad-Narvik (EVE), in the north of the country. Its international destinations will be France (Nice) and Spain (Alicante and Malaga). Unlike Wizz’s all-Airbus A320 setup, Flyr favors the Boeing 737 family.

Did you ever fly on one of Wizz Air’s Norwegian services? What markets would you like to see the airline expand into next? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.