Thursday, June 26, 2008

Depressing news for Rygge Airport




















Rygge airport is the newest airport serving the populous eastern part of Norway, but has struggled to attract interest from airlines operating flights from Norway to the continent. As the price of fuel goes through the roof, the airlines increasingly scrutinize the profitability of their existing destinations in order to stay in business. This week Rygge airport is the one to lose out, as Widerøe and Norwegian Air Shuttle announced that they are closing down flights from the new airport this fall.

I travelled from Rygge airport to Barcelona a week ago. It was a great change from Oslo airport. No long lines at the check-in counter or at the security check. It did, however, feel a little strange to leave from an airport where there were such a small number of departures and so few travellers. You are bound to ask yourself whether there really is a need for a third airport within a two hour drive from the Norwegian capital. It is obvious that the airlines may reach the same conclusion.

Ryanair decided earlier this month to close down two flights from Torp airport and also reduce the number of flights to a number of the existing destinations. Torp will however remain the main hub for Ryanair in Norway. Rygge has no such advantage. It has to compete with Oslo airport and may be losing out.

As this week Norwegian Air shuttle and Widerøe decided to close down two of their services from Rygge. Norwegian Air Shuttle will close their service to London Stanstead September 1st, and Widerøe, a subsidiary of Scandinavian Airlines, will close its flights to Copenhagen August 31st. The price of fuel and lacking interest from travellers were the explanation both airlines gave for their decisions.

The question is whether this is the beginning of the end for Rygge. As the competition in the air tightens the small differences will count and the management of the new airport will have to work on a strategy to retain or hopefully increase the interest from the airlines. The best alternative would be if one of the European budget airlines would make Rygge into its national hub, but the question is whether the international and domestic market would be interesting enough for air carriers as Easyjet, German Wings or WizzAir.

It will certainly be interesting to see.

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