SAS reports strong passenger figures but remains alert due to “prevailing uncertainties”

SAS aircraftPhoto: SAS / Press
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Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) reported strong figures for March – around 1.4 million passengers traveled with the company last month, the highest number since the pandemic broke out in March 2020.

The figure is an increase of more than 50% from February. Furthermore, SAS also increased its capacity by 30% during the month. 

At the beginning of April, the carrier announced it would introduce more direct routes this summer in response to the rising demand for travel, flying more than 200 direct routes from Scandinavia to over 100 destinations.

As the aviation industry slowly recovers from the sundering effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, industry leaders warn that it will take time to reach pre-pandemic activity levels.

Norway Today (NT) contacted SAS to find out how the company is working on normalizing operations and restoring its market position.

John Eckhoff, head of media relations at SAS, told us that the company remains cautious due to the prevailing uncertainties. 

NT: Can you describe how the coronavirus pandemic affected SAS’s business operations in Norway? What were the major challenges, and how did SAS address them?

JE: We began our fiscal year in November 2019 with a strong tailwind, high demand, strong passenger numbers, increased revenue, and improved market shares. But in March 2020, the situation changed overnight when the full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic became evident and quickly resulted in lockdowns, closed borders, and strict travel restrictions. 

The entire aviation industry was heavily impacted, and SAS was no exception. Almost our entire fleet was grounded from the end of March and throughout April. Demand for air travel started to recover somewhat during the summer season, unfortunately, to be abruptly halted again by the second wave of reported COVID-19 cases in September and October. 

This led to reintroduced travel restrictions and dramatically reduced demand. The temporary layoff schemes available from the Scandinavian governments have been helpful in retaining as many of our employees as possible. The schemes also enabled us to better scale up and down traffic according to the volatility in demand. However, we, unfortunately, had to carry out 5,000 redundancies during the year, which were necessary to safeguard our business for the future.

In Norway, we maintained all routes almost all the time, but with a lower frequency. We were able to do this thanks to the state’s purchase of routes for a period to secure important infrastructure.

NT: You reported strong figures for March – do you expect the trend to continue in the months ahead? 

JE: Yes. As communicated in the latest traffic figures report, the passenger numbers in March are the highest since the pandemic hit in March 2020. The ramp-up continues, and we are increasing our capacity toward the summer peak season, also on the back of improved sales trends. We have added flights and destinations to the Mediterranean as well as to North America that will be operated with our new, fuel-efficient A321LR aircraft.

NT: Is there anything you would like to accentuate for additional context?

JE: We remain cautious due to the prevailing uncertainties. Underlying demand is healthy once restrictions are lifted for business and leisure travel, and there is a pent-up demand for travel. Financially, we have been severely affected by the pandemic, and it is not yet over.

Robin-Ivan Capar is a contributor and editor at Norway Today.

Source: #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayFinance

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