Norwegian (DY, Oslo Gardermoen) has declared that Norway is “opening up” with the government’s recent removal of pandemic control measures on travel, prompting the recovering carrier to reopen its bases at Bergen, Stavanger, and Trondheim.

The airline said it had experienced a steady rise in demand for flights since May, and now that Norwegians are no longer discouraged from travelling to other countries as long as they hold a vaccine pass and follow their destination country’s restrictions, the company claimed to have seen “a very large increase in ticket sales,” leading to the bases reopening.

Norwegian had seen little or no activity at the bases since it parked virtually all of its aircraft in March 2020. The bases were later formally closed on November 10. According to the ch-aviation capacities module, from Bergen the airline currently flies to 13 destinations, five of them within Norway including Stavanger (22x weekly) and Trondheim (17x weekly) themselves. It links Stavanger with five destinations, two of them within Norway, and Trondheim with four destinations, two within Norway.

The base reopenings mean that a total of 112 pilots and 165 cabin crew will be able to return to work, spokeswoman Eline Skari Hyggen told local broadcaster TV 2, and the plan is to increase the number of cabin crew based at Stavanger.

Prior to the pandemic, the airline had more than 11,000 employees and 156 aircraft in operation. Today, there are around 3,000 staff and, in line with its restructuring plan, a fleet of fifty-one B737-800s, to be operated on a power-by-the-hour basis until the end of the first quarter of 2022. However, no decisions have yet been made about more base openings.

“We can actually say that our capacity in this country is a little larger than before the pandemic, because we have moved some colleagues from other bases that we have closed, for example about 200 cabin crew from Spain, and also pilots from Sweden mainly to Oslo Gardermoen,” Skari Hyggen said.

CEO Geir Karlsen told the online business newspaper E24 Næringsliv that rising demand means the fleet needs to grow again.

“We will make maximum use of the fleet now during the winter, but it is still too small. So the plan is that by next summer we will increase the number of aircraft to between 60 and 70,” he said.

Karlsen elaborated that he can now “guarantee that there will be no media coverage about the danger of bankruptcy for Norwegian this winter. We’re where we need to be. Through the debt negotiations, we received very flexible agreements for our aircraft. In short, it’s about us only paying for the hours we fly. This allows us to adjust our activity up and down quickly and cost-effectively.”

As for the appearance of another local competitor, Flyr (Norway) (FS, Oslo Gardermoen), which according to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module currently operates three B737-800s with one more awaiting delivery, Karlsen said: “We at Norwegian are very used to competition, first and foremost from SAS Scandinavian Airlines (SK, Copenhagen Kastrup). Flyr operates three or four aircraft today, and we will handle that well. As I said, our ticket sales are increasing and I look forward to the future.”

On October 6, Norwegian revealed that it carried 977,719 passengers in September, up 206% year-on-year. It operated an average of 46 aircraft during the month, and its load factor was 72.4%.