Bombardier's CSeries has emerged as a more serious fleet renewal candidate for Scandinavian Star Alliance member SAS, should Airbus and Boeing fail to deliver a fuel-efficient narrowbody successor by the middle of next decade.
Last year SAS launched an ambitious strategy, targeting a 20% reduction in its total carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. This goal assumes annual passenger growth of 4%, coupled with savings evenly split between technological developments - such as alternative fuels, next-generation aircraft and engines - and operational measures.
But now SAS, which styles itself as "the world's most environmentally conscious airline", says it may have to revise its climate-based fleet strategy since both Airbus and Boeing have pushed back their single aisle successor timelines. "We are disappointed regarding the delay. However our environmental goal to 2020 still remains," says SAS.
A few years ago, successors to the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 were expected by the second half of the next decade. Now senior executives at the two big airframers say they do not expect their new narrowbodies to become available before 2020.
SAS environment director Niels Eirik Nertun says: "We are delayed because Airbus and Boeing have been delayed. It means that we have to reconsider our previous [fleet] plans."
The backbone of SAS' fleet consists of older Boeing MD-80s and 737s, which have been earmarked for replacement between 2014 and 2020 with aircraft that are far more fuel efficient than current models.
SAS fleet strategy chief Niklas Hardange says that if a next generation single aisle is delayed until 2020, the company will consider the Bombardier model which is due to enter service in 2013.
In its annual report, SAS says it will be operating only 40% of its original MD-80 fleet by the end of 2009. It adds that the MD-80s and 737 Classics will need to be replaced from 2014, but SAS also notes: "The replacement of older aircraft will depend on the emergence of new technology."
Lufthansa earlier this month became a launch customer for the Pratt & Whitney GTF-powered CSeries, firming a letter of interest covering 30 CS100s for its Swiss subsidiary.