Rebuilding Flesland – Norway’s worst airport

BOOM! If you’re anywhere near Bergen Airport Flesland in the evenings these days, you’ll feel at least one “rumble”. It’s the vibrations from ground being blasted away to make room for a brand new airport terminal, hotel, and city train line.

The new airport terminal is desperately needed, because Bergen Airport sucks.

UPDATE: Bergen finally has an airport to be proud of! Read all about the new-look Bergen airport.

I’m a frequent traveller and am in Bergen a lot for work lately. Much of Bergen’s industry is based close to the airport, so I know this area better than I know the city centre.

Bergen Airport (specifically the domestic terminal) sucks because it’s too small and outdated. Here are just some examples:

  • Gates in the domestic terminal are situated around a central seating area. This area is far too small, so frequently full with no room to sit down.
  • The same area gets even more congested at busy times because there is no separate arrivals entry, so all arriving passengers have to squeeze through the same space and get to the arrivals gate, which is located immediately next to the security control, causing a further bottleneck between arriving and departing passengers.
  • Most modern airports are “quiet”, i.e. announcements are only made to alert late passengers, or are at least restricted to certain areas / gates. Not in Bergen. Most announcements are heard by everyone – there’s no quiet time. Just tonight I was treated to four separate calls for just one missing passenger on a Norwegian flight, even though the gate was on the other side of the domestic terminal.
  • The corridors and walkways are all narrow, especially through security, adding even further to the uncomfortable feeling of being trapped. This airport must be a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare.
  • The selection of shops and restaurants is severely limited due to space. If you’re delayed, it’s a Narvesen pølse or a pizza slice for you! But don’t expect to be able to sit down to eat, there’s no room remember? I frequently see passengers resting their dinner on top of the bins as it’s the only place to stand.
  • A lack of power outlets, unacceptable in 2014 especially considering almost two-thirds of the traffic is business. There are outlets around, but they’re hard to find and not convenient (i.e. most are not in the seating area!)
Domestic terminal at Bergen Airport
Want a seat at Flesland? Unlikely!

If this sounds like a rant, well it is, but it’s a rant backed up by facts. According to Avinor, the owner of most of Norway’s airports, the capacity of Bergen Airport is 3.4 million passengers per year, whereas traffic in 2012 was 5.8 million passengers per year. See the problem?

The one saving grace at Bergen Airport is the Clarion Hotel. I’ve stayed there three times now and it’s easily the best airport hotel I’ve stayed in, anywhere. Most airport hotels rely on being the “only choice” and don’t offer anything by way of service. The Clarion is modern, has a quick and efficient reception, serves good food, and understands the concept of customer service – something lacking across much of Scandinavia.

So what’s changing?

New Flesland 2014
Picture from Avinor

Construction of a brand new terminal, somewhat pointlessly named Terminal 3, is underway. It will be almost three times the size of the current terminal (63,000m² v 22,000m²) and offer an increased capacity of 7.5 million passengers per year, with the ability to further extend that if and when the time comes. Total cost is in the region of 4 billion kroner. All domestic flights will move to the new terminal, leaving the international flights to operate from the current domestic/international setup.

But that’s not all.

A new city train line is being built connecting Flesland to the city centre. However, as one local taxi driver told me, it will take more than double the time of the bus, stop at many places, only benefit those living along the line, and cost a ridiculous amount of “his” money.

I have no idea if his arguments are valid, but he seemed pretty narked. My view is increasing the number of transport options to Norway’s second biggest airport is surely a good thing in “bigger picture” terms.

Unfortunately all of this work isn’t scheduled to be completed until 2017. In the meantime, the area around Flesland is one massive building site, but it’ll be worth it.

UPDATE: Well it's now 2017, and Bergen finally has an airport to be proud of! Read all about the new-look Bergen airport.

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

5 Comments

  1. I’m glad to hear that some changes are being made to Bergen’s airport – it is pretty awful.

    In fact, I haven’t been that impressed with any airports in Norway. Stavanger is ok and actually, the security process is one of the quickest and most efficient I’ve been in. My husband and I hate our layovers in Oslo which seem to happen regularly. The food options are always so terrible. It’s a toss up between a pølse, ridiculously expensive Pizza Hut, or that buffet style ‘restaurant’ none of which are any good. The shopping is also uninspired. But, that being said, it’s spacious enough and there seems to be plenty of seating. There seems to be some work happening there as well although it looks just like tunnels – I’d hope for a few inner-terminal improvements as well.

    1. I find Trondheim one of the best in Norway after some improvements in late 2013, there’s a few decent options to eat now. The improvements at OSL are actually quite substantial, an entire new pier in the existing terminal and a bunch of other bits and pieces. That’s scheduled for 2017 too, I think.

  2. Actually, I love Bergen airport and wrote words to that effect here.

    Coming out of Heathrow T5 and going into Bergen Airport is like coming out of Meadowhall and going into an old corner shop, well, almost! The check-in lounge reminded me of my nan’s lounge 40 years ago and I could almost taste the coconut tarts in the oven and hear the westminster chime of the clock on the mantlepiece, it was very homely. Check-In itself was a weird experience, it was very quiet and a solemn looking man looked at my passport for what seemed an age. He nodded, I went through …Wow! …I’m in Norway!

    Specifically, I’m in Bergen and the visitor reports I had read were accurate …its chuckin it down!

    David, did you or any of your fellow bloggers use the Newcastle – Norway ferry service at all? I just wanted to confirm that the majority of users were visiting family and friends rather than touring.

    Great Blogg by the way 😉

    1. Arriving is one thing – just wait until you depart!

      I never used the ferry. I live in Trondheim and when I visit the UK need to get to Northamptonshire… so Bergen or Stavanger to Newcastle is no use to me 🙂

  3. The Bybane extension to the airport will be slow to the center as it’s the main transport line for all of South Bergen, but if time is your issue the new ringvei vest will considerably reduce the time to the center when it’s completed, so that should make the Taxi Driver happier, and I doubt he’s complaining about the money being spent on that.

    The place is poorly laid out and overcrowded, but I could say that about so many airports that are in need of an upgrade. My only tips would be get your coffee from the Narvesen and be travelling abroad, although there is a shocking amount of space given over to the duty free given the size of the airport, and it’s even been expanded recently in the arrivals area where you collect your bags. Never enter Norway empty handed, if you’re visiting someone ask them if you can collect them something.

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