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New Airline Off To Flying Start

Mon Sep 02, 2002 7:01 pm

Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) launched domestic service over the weekend and won mostly rave reviews from passengers and the media. NAS aims to be a low-price alternative to dominant carrier SAS.

Transport Minister Torild Skogsholm cut the ribbon that signified the formal launch of NAS service, while fire engines at Oslo's airport at Gardermoen ceremoniously doused NAS jets with water before they took off with paying passengers for the first time.
NAS, which offers fares that mostly are far below those of rival SAS, already has secured important contracts from the state and some companies to help secure its operations.

Its arrival marks the latest attempt to offer serious competition to SAS, which lately has jacked up fares and angered passengers because of its market dominance.

The way was cleared for NAS when SAS took over rival carrier Braathens, which had suffered heavy losses, and started cutting routes.

NAS fills a hole left by both Braathens and Color Air, which tried to offer alternative domestic air service in Norway but quickly failed when passengers remained loyal to SAS and Braathens.

Much of that loyalty was attributed to frequent flyer programs that since have been banned on routes within Norway. Color Air founder Olav Nils Sunde told newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv on Monday that NAS thus has much better chances of succeeding than his airline did.

Investor Bjørn Kjos is the largest shareholder in NAS, which continues to seek up to NOK 200 million in fresh capital. The airline will be marketed under the name "Norwegian" and is operating with a fleet of leased Boeing 737-300 aircraft.

Routes during NAS' start-up period are going between Oslo and Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsoe. Oslo-Stavanger flights are due to begin later this month.