Low cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle (ICAO: NAX) has appealed to the country’s government to close the national airspace for the overflight of Russian airlines. It’s meant as a countermeasure to Moscow’s recent njet to Norwegian’s official application to overfly Russian territory on routes connecting Scandinavia and Southeast Asia.
Bjoern Kjos is known as man of straight talk. As such he knocked at the doors of his Oslo government right after being informed that the Kremlin rulers had turned down his airline’s application
to transit Russia en- route to Bangkok for transporting passengers and cargo shipments. “Fire must be fought with fire,” he told Norway’s politicians, urging them to pay back with the same coin.
“Norway should tell Russia that our national air corridors will be closed for their airlines until they allow us to cross their skies,” demanded the founder and CEO of Norwegian Air
A strong argument in view of the fact that Norway stretches 1,750 kilometers from North to South, thus jeopardizing flights of Russian airlines from Moscow or St. Petersburg to destinations in North America. In case the Nordic corridor would be blocked they would have to accept long detours or even cancel some of their routes completely.
Norwegian launched its Bangkok services in 2013, but was never given the green light by Moscow’s Transport Ministry to cross the country’s skies. Consequently, the airline had no choice but to circumvent Russian territory, losing almost an hour on each Thailand-bound flight, burning a lot of additional kerosene. To end this unreasonable practice, Kjos and his management requested overflight rights, analog to treaties agreed between Russia and other European airlines on trans Siberian routes, including Nordic carriers SAS or Finnair.
In a first reaction to Moscow’s rigid stance Oslo’s Transport Ministry has urged their Russian counterparts to deliver reasons why they decided against the application. A speaker of Norway’s government told local media that if Moscow is sticking to its rigid policy his administration is considering deciding on equivalent measures which will cause serious consequences for Russian airlines.
This surely would back Bjoern Kjos’ approach to fight fire with fire but might open up a Pandora’s box which could develop into a conflagration in air traffic between Europe and Russia. Now, much depends on Moscow’s reaction to Oslo’s backing of Norwegian’s position. This all could probably lead to an additional conflict between Russia and the West.
Norwegian is anything but a no-name airline. The Nordic carrier has developed into the third largest European LCC, serving 424 routes to 130 destinations in Europe, the U.S., Thailand, North Africa and the Middle East. Last year, NAX transported 24 million passengers. In 2013, its cargo business was established which is growing rapidly ever since, claims the company.