April 21, 2021

Norway Greens Propose Personal Flight Quota

Norway’s domestic aviation market is strong due to the lack of fast alternative ground transport….

Ahead of the national elections in September, the Green Party of Norway (MDG) has come out fighting against the aviation industry. Among other proposals, MDG politicians want to replace planes with trains between big cities, ban advertising of domestic routes, stop international duty-free sales at Norwegian airports and introduce personal flight quotas.

The party has been inspired by a recent move in France to ban short-haul flights between big cities that are linked by high-speed rail.

While there will not be a Green prime minister following September’s poll, the party could play a decisive role in the formation of a centre-left coalition government. Both leading prime ministerial candidates told NRK that MDG could have a “major influence” on Norwegian politics in the years to come.

Flexible personal quotas for flights

An introduction of personal quotas for air travel is the most drastic and controversial of the proposals. An individual’s flight quota would take into account the person’s location together with socio-economic factors, as people living in rural areas are more reliant on air travel.

“We see that the business community is able to adapt with more use of digital meetings,” explained MDG’s Ulrikke Torgersen, who tops the party’s candidate list for Rogaland, home to oil city Stavanger. She added that people in rural areas “will get more quota and can buy more from those who live in the big cities.”

Details of the proposal remain scarce. It’s not clear how such a system could be implemented, whether the proposal would apply to all flights or just domestic flights, or how it would impact foreign visitors taking domestic flights within Norway. It could also hit foreign-born residents of Norway who take regular trips home to visit family.

Norway is a nation of flyers

MDG wants to invest in rail as an alternative. While capital city Oslo is linked to the next three biggest cities by rail, the lines are far from high-speed. The shortest route—Oslo to Bergen—still takes more than six hours by train compared with just 40 minutes by plane.

More than 50% of Norway is mountainous, which makes the cost of high-speed rail construction difficult to justify. Today, large portions of Norway’s long-distance rail network is single-track, placing a hard limit on capacity.

The current Norwegian government is supportive of a transition to electric-powered aviation and Nordic airlines are pressing ahead with big investments. However, MDG politicians said the climate crisis won’t wait for the switch.

The start of a debate?

A flight quota system is unlikely to be introduced any time soon, but with MDG growing in popularity it could prove the start of a debate that results in long-term changes to domestic aviation in Norway.

However, Bård Hoksrud from Norway’s Progress Party strongly criticized the package of proposals. He told Nettavisen that MDG want to control people’s lives and have not taken into account “the needs of both ordinary people and our business community.”