Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) plans to launch two new subsidiary airlines focused on short-haul flying in “early 2022,” according to the Star Alliance member.
SAS says the carriers will be called SAS Connect and SAS Link. Both airlines will be based in Copenhagen (CPH), while SAS Connect is evaluating also adding bases in Stockholm (ARN) and Oslo (OSL) later in 2022.
“Each platform is responsible for delivering full-scale airline services through SAS,” CEO Anko van der Werff told analysts and reporters on Nov. 30, adding: “The operating model will provide further flexibility while reducing complexity and increasing accountability in each independent platform with an increased cost and efficiency focus. Above all, it really is a necessary change in order to secure the future of SAS in a role as Scandinavia’s leading airline.”
Van der Werff compared the new carriers in the SAS portfolio to KLM Cityhopper and Iberia Express. The move by SAS, which specializes in long-haul business flying, to establish two short-haul carriers was driven by a passenger mix that is decidedly more leisure-oriented than before the COVID-19 pandemic and a desire to compete on all route ranges.
“SAS needs to make sure that it’s competitive also in that short-haul game,” van der Werff said. “And that is where an increased focused on the platforms Connect and Link and building them out comes in.”
Having three airlines will “allow us to remain flexible in the future,” he said.
The SAS CEO said the company is still evaluating the potential impact of the new COVID-19 omicron variant on passenger demand going forward. “We still have quite an optimistic view for the summer of 2022 and we are, of course, hoping that market conditions will get back to where they were” prior to the pandemic, van der Werff said.
He added that it is “no surprise we continue to be impacted by the pandemic.”
“Now, once again, unfortunately, we’re seeing increased infection spread [associated with the omicron variant], which of course we are monitoring very closely,” van der Werff said. “Overall, I think demand for the winter was stabilizing in a more positive way, and now we need to figure out what the new variant may mean … It’s too early to tell on omicron. We haven't seen much yet in our data. [But] people don’t like that uncertainty.”
Van der Werff noted that “most of the [recent] increase in demand [has been] coming from the leisure travel segment,” adding: “We are a business airline of choice, and we will remain that business airline … [But] when it comes to leisure, it is becoming more important.”
SAS is planning to operate 150 routes comprising 90 destinations this winter.
Photo credit: SAS