Norwegian to acquire regional carrier Widerøe

A Wideroe Dash 8 aircraft on the taxiway.
Photo Credit: Adrian Olstad/AviationSource

Scandinavian low-cost airline Norwegian has announced an agreement to acquire Norway’s major regional carrier Widerøe. The airline has disclosed details of the Widerøe acquisition for the sum of 1,125 million kroner ($106 million).

Widerøe will continue to exist as a separate company with its own brand, organisation and headquarters in Bodø following the acquisition. Expected to conclude in the fourth quarter of 2023, this deal holds great promise for both airlines and passengers alike.

The acquisition of Widerøe is set to bolster Norwegian’s standing within the Norwegian domestic market.

With this strategic move, the airline aims to enhance the overall travel experience for its passengers, offering them a seamless journey from start to finish.

‘Milestone in Norwegian aviation history’

Geir Karlsen CEO of Norwegian characterised the move as “a milestone in Norwegian aviation history”.

“We are two Norwegian airlines that have lived side-by-side for many years. Together we know the aviation market in the country very well.”

“Now, we want to create an even better and comprehensive offer for all our passengers, and we look forward to customers being able to travel easily and seamlessly across our route networks,” Karlsen said. 

Widerøe covers more than 40 small and medium-sized airports across Norway, in addition to a few larger airports in Europe, while Norwegian offers more than 300 routes to 114 destinations in the Nordics and in Europe.

Largest Norwegian regional airline

Currently, Widerøe holds the distinction of being the largest regional airline in Norway, operating an impressive fleet of 45 De Havilland DHC Dash 8 aircraft and 3 Embraer E2 jets, and serving over 40 domestic destinations.

The airline was founded in 1934 by Viggo Widerøe and his brother, Karl. They started out with a single aircraft, a Junkers F.13, and flew mail and passengers between Oslo and Trondheim.

The airline grew rapidly in the years that followed, and by the 1960s, it was the largest airline in Norway.

Widerøe has a long history of innovation. In 1965, they became the first airline in the world to operate a scheduled service with a jet aircraft, a de Havilland Comet. They also introduced the first regional commuter Dash 8 in 1984.

A Wideroe Embraer E190 on approach to land.
Valentin Hintikka from Finland, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, the regional carrier is a major player in the Norwegian aviation industry. It carries over 2.8 million passengers annually and employs over 3,500 people. The airline is known for its reliable service and its commitment to regional air travel.

Widerøe CEO statement

“Widerøe has a close to 90-year history, and we are the guarantor of a well-functioning route network in regional Norway. Although we have a solid footprint in Norway, we are smaller in an international context.”

“The tax level for air travel in Norway is particularly high, and this, in combination with fierce international competition, makes it difficult for a smaller regional airline to persevere without a strong partner.”

“We are therefore very happy to now join forces with Norwegian, and we are excited to get an industrial owner that aspires to develop both companies further. We are convinced that this solution is in the best interest of Widerøe, our employees, and not the least our customers,” said Stein Nilsen, CEO of Widerøe.

The Norwegian airline industry

It is important to note that the Norwegian airline industry is currently navigating through a challenging phase. In 2021, Norwegian Air itself sought bankruptcy protection, while another peer airline, Flyr, followed suit and filed for bankruptcy in January 2023.

However, despite the industry’s recent turbulence, Norwegian Air’s CEO, Geir Karlsen, expressed confidence in the successful acquisition of Widerøe.

Karlsen believes that this venture will open up new avenues for Norwegian Air, allowing them to solidify their presence in the Norwegian market while elevating the travel experiences of their valued customers.

Naturally, the acquisition of Widerøe will have to overcome certain regulatory obstacles along the way. Nevertheless, Norwegian Air remains optimistic that it will successfully navigate these hurdles and complete the deal as planned.

The company even anticipates that the acquisition will contribute positively to its earnings per share in the first full year of ownership, highlighting the potential for significant benefits stemming from this strategic move.

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
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