Braathens re-jigs network as crisis continues

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Struggling Norwegian flag-carrier Braathens is shifting the emphasis of its route network from short-haul and domestic services to medium-haul routes to popular holiday destinations in an effort to solve its continuing financial crisis.

The carrier, minority-owned by KLM, is also examining the business case for mixing its present all-Boeing 737 fleet with 80-100 seat aircraft to operate the short-haul routes, and intends to make a decision on that next spring.

High fuel prices, declining passenger numbers and poor US-European exchange rates have combined to hit Braathens hard, leading CEO Arne Jensen to express concern about Braathens' survival if the carrier failed to instigate wide-ranging changes.

A Braathens spokesman says: "We're cutting short routes with poor demand. It's a structural change, to go from short hops to long hops.

"These new changes are not enough to correct everything, but they are a start. We are turning every stone, looking at every part of the business."

Braathens is cutting three domestic Norwegian routes: Oslo-Roros, Molde-Kristiansund and Kristiansund-Trondheim. The latter two are operated by Braathens partner carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS), which uses Fokker 50s for the services.

NAS also operates the Bergen-Haugesund and Bergen-Molde-Trondheim routes, both of which will have their daily frequencies cut to three flights.

Internationally, Braathens is to withdraw its Tromso-Murmansk and Oslo-Newcastle services. NAS will instead add a second frequency to its daily Fokker 50 service from Stavanger to Newcastle.

NAS CEO Stig Willassen says: "What's important is that, although there decreases on some routes, there are increases on others, so our flight hours will remain at about the same level."

Braathens instead will focus on new holiday destinations. It is to launch an Oslo-Barcelona daily service from 15 February next year, and increase weekly frequencies on its Oslo-Alicante and Oslo-Malaga routes. Braathens is also planning to launch a non-stop service from Oslo to Longyearbyen, on the island of Spitzbergen, from the beginning of March.