Both SAS and Widerøe are canceling thousands of departures in Norway. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Airlines cancel thousands of flights and lay off most employees

Demand for air travel is essentially non-existent due to the coronavirus outbreak and airlines like SAS, Norwegian and Widerøe have therefore decided to put most of its flights on hold.
March 16, 2020


Flights to northern regions of Norway, Sweden and Finland get canceled as winter tourism plunges and further travel restrictions are enforced.

Norwegian Air on Monday said it will cancel 85% of its flights and temporarily lay off 7,300 of its employees.

The move follows SAS that on Sunday announced a temporary lay off affecting 90% of its workforce. That is 10,000 employees, mostly in the Scandinavian countries.

Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Widerøe, the regional airlines flying to Norway’s extensive network of short-haul airports, says it will cut every second flight and temporarily lay off 1,000 employees.

The crises in the air businesses now are considered more difficult than during the 2008 financial crisis, the 9/11 terror and the air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption.

Norwegian Air says in a press release it has to temporarily lay off 90% of its workforce.

“What our industry is now facing is unprecedented and critical as we are approaching a scenario where most of our airplanes will be temporarily grounded. Several governments in Europe have already said that they will do everything they can to ensure that their airlines can continue to fly when society returns to normalcy. We appreciate that the authorities of Norway have communicated that they will implement all necessary measures to protect aviation in Norway, consequently securing crucial infrastructure and jobs,” said CEO Jacob Schram of Norwegian.


Norwegian will maintain a few routes to the northern parts of Scandinavia, including one daily flight from Oslo to Alta/Kirkenes, two daily flights to Tromsø, Bodø and Evenes, and three flights a week to Svalbard.

In Sweden, there will be two weekly departures from Stockholm to Luleå and Umeå, and four weekly flights to Kiruna.

Airlines can’t fly with empty seats. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

In Finland, Norwegian Air will operate one daily departure from Helsinki to both Rovaniemi and Oulu and six weekly flights to Kittilä.

SAS is posting daily updates on which flights are to be canceled, but planes are the nearest days flying from Oslo to northern airports like Bodø, Evenes, Bardufoss, Tromsø, Alta, and Kirkenes.

Widerøe has restrictions on international flights, but for Monday, all domestic flights within Norway are on flying, the company informs.

Photo: Thomas Nilsen


Read more: Barents Observer’s media partner, Eye on the Arctic, has compiled a brief resume of responses to this pandemic around the Arctic Circle to see how various national and sub-national governments are dealing with the outbreak. See here for updates.



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