The plane was about to land in the small northern town of Mosjøn when it turned back to Trondheim, around 350 kilometres south, local newspaper Rana Blad said in a report.
"Shortly afterwards, the captain himself said on the tannoy that it was unbelievable, but that it had been decided that we had to turn around," passenger Steinar Henriksen said.
Company Widerøe, a regional carrier owned by Scandinavian airline SAS, said that the last-minute decision was based on Norway's strict working time regulations.
"Unfortunately, the plane took off with a crew that was about to clock out. We have strict working hours that are imposed by the authorities, which we cannot exceed," a spokesman for the company, Richard Kongsteien, told the paper.
"If the airplane had landed, it would have had to stay in Mosjøn since we didn't have a back-up crew there, and the schedule for the rest of the evening would have had to be cancelled," he said, adding that this would have affected more than 200 passengers.