Scandinavian operator SAS is to suspend most of its operations, after declaring the demand for international air travel to be “essentially non-existent”.

It will temporarily reduce its workforce by 90% – some 10,000 personnel – while the crisis situation persists.

SAS says the traffic will be restored when “there are yet again conditions to conduct commercial aviation”.

From 16 March the airline will virtually ground itself, although it will attempt to maintain sufficient service to enable passengers to return from certain destinations.

“We will be at the disposal of the authorities to on their behalf take home stranded citizens or maintain infrastructure important to society, as far as possible,” it states.

“The reductions will be implemented through all parts of the operation, according to national regulations.”

SAS operates a fleet of 158 aircraft, including 17 long-haul jets and 32 wet-leased regional aircraft. The company had 55 aircraft on order at the end of January.

At that point it had just started taking delivery of Airbus A350s as part of a modernisation plan for its long-haul fleet, and was working towards a renewal of its mid-sized Airbus A319 and Boeing 737 operations.