Bernie Baldwin

The start-up carrier’s mission is to create an airline that is more sustainable for the economy, society, and the environment.

As Norwegian goes back to its core Nordic market to effect a turnaround of its fortunes, a new low-cost competitor, Flyr, is about to give it a run for its money.

Erik Braathen, who was chief executive of the airline which used his family’s name, is the key figure behind Flyr. He has put together the seed funding and gathered a team of former Norwegian executives to start the new carrier, which focus on Norway’s domestic market.

Tonje Wikstrøm Frislid, the company’s chief executive, is one of those who worked at Norwegian, where she was vice-president for crew management. Despite the fact that Flyr planned for a first fight on 1st June, she is pleased tickets will now go on sale in early June for the first flight from Oslo to Tromsø on 1st July. The company was on target to meet that 1st June maiden flight; the start-up date was adapted in April to meet the Norwegian government’s plan for reopening society.

Bringing staff on board is going well. “We have a highly experienced and competent management team in place. There has been great interest in the pilot and cabin crew positions and we expect no problems in recruiting sufficient personnel,” Frislid reports.

Work on raising capital has been ongoing through the early months of 2021 and the company expects to be fully financed by private equity.

“The target is to raise NOK600 million in private equity capital, which will make Flyr fully financed to operate 28-30 aircraft,” the CEO comments.

“The aim is to build the airline on new technology free from old complex structures, so we can rapidly adjust the size of our operation,” she continues. “We believe our sustainable model is why we will succeed.

“Our fleet size will be adapted to the Norwegian market. A correct fleet size means that Flyr is not dependent on expanding into less profitable markets in the Norwegian regions.”

On 1st July, when flight operations begin, that fleet is scheduled to comprise two Boeing 737-800s, according to Flyr’s chief commercial officer, Thomas Ramdahl. “We’ll then move on to have five aircraft before the end of July, with the introduction of aircraft six, seven and eight during the fall for the winter programme,” he remarks.

The aircraft is well-proven in the Norwegian environment, Ramdahl says. “We know it and we have sufficient pilots and cabin crew on that type,” he adds. “We plan for 10 pilots and 20 cabin crew per aircraft, and are aiming for an overall figure of 36 staff per aircraft, which includes people in the office and ground operations as well. That’s basically in line with what Ryanair has per aircraft.”

The initial network with the eight aircraft expected this year will involve seven domestic destinations, Copenhagen and four on the Mediterranean coast. Upon reaching the phase with 28-30 aircraft, there will be routes across Europe from Oslo plus selected destinations from each of Stavanger, Bergen and Trondheim. The growth of the network and the fleet will be through market demand.

Development of the onboard product is in progress, but so far as inflight entertainment – particularly on routes from Norway to the Mediterranean – Ramdahl does not expect any embedded systems. “We think that many will rely on their own pre-loaded devices,” he states.

On what Flyr might you do that Norwegian and SAS can’t, Frislid comments, “Against our Scandinavian competitors, we believe we have a totally different foundation. We’re building a leaner organisation with no debt, it’s not the same structure.

“Plus we are focussing on the Norwegian market. Although we were in the industry previously, some of us have been out of it for a while and are now returning,” the CEO says. “For me it looks like a revolution with totally new possibilities compared with what I have seen before.”

Inspiration and best practices ideas have come from both internal and external analysis. “JetBlue is an airline I like in the way it does things, but we’ve been looking at several others as well,” Ramdahl admits. “We’ve also been looking into ourselves as well – at what we did and didn’t achieve at previous companies, which has been a driver in trying to do in a different way this time.”