As a result of international restrictions on travel resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, SAS has now effectively reduced its scheduled services to limited domestic flights within Scandinavia. The airline is also supporting governments with repatriation flights and shipments of critical supplies.
The airline’s CEO Rickard Gustafson, issued a statement accompanying SAS’ published traffic figures for March.
“Just over one month has passed since we started being severely affected by the Coronavirus crisis, and we are now in a situation never before experienced. For the first time in the history of SAS, we are not offering any scheduled international flights. Since Monday this week, we are only operating a limited domestic network in Norway and Sweden. In Norway, we are serving more destinations than in Sweden following an agreement with the Norwegian government.
“We remain at the disposal of public authorities and continue to play an important role in providing critical services for the Scandinavian society, including bringing home stranded citizens from various parts of the world and transporting critical medical equipment. It is important for us to contribute when and where we can in these unprecedented and challenging times. However, these flights do not compensate for the significant loss in revenue due to the travel restrictions.
“In the light of the sharp decrease in revenue we must continue to adjust our costs to the extent possible. We have been forced to temporarily lay off a majority of our employees. At time of writing, nearly 11 000 employees have been temporarily laid off in Scandinavia. We have also given notice of permanent redundancy for some 120 positions in Sweden.
“When the COVID-19 crisis struck with full force, SAS enjoyed a strong financial preparedness. Naturally, this has been beneficial in this difficult situation due to the travel restrictions imposed by the governments. We are pleased that Denmark, Sweden and Norway are providing some financial support, however the earmarked amounts will not suffice to secure and safeguard critical infrastructure if the situation is prolonged.
“SAS has safeguarded airline traffic in Scandinavia for over 70 years and we miss being able to welcome our customers on board what we call our second home. I hope to be able to resume safe and reliable operations as soon as possible, but until then I would like to thank our customers for their patience and support, and my colleagues at SAS for their dedication to SAS and our societies during these difficult times,” says Gustafson.
The March traffic figures published by the airline show a steep decline, of 61.9% in RPKs (revenue passenger kilometres), compared to March 2019, and an average load factor of 48.6%.