Chris Jasper/OSLO

New Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) chief executive Jorgen Lindegaard is targeting a 50% increase in the tri-national carrier's annual passenger total by 2005 after isolating the "aggressive" pursuit of market share as one of his two major goals. Lindegaard says the other is establish SAS as one of Europe's top three airline stocks after its transformation into a company with a single traded share.

Lindegaard, who took over from Jan Stenberg on 8 May, says SAS "had too small aeroplanes and lost market share", and is playing catch-up. "It's an aggressive target, but we think it is achievable."

SAS aims to attract 35 million passengers by 2005, 51% up on last year's 23.2 million, and says that - despite the US downturn - growth areas will include North America, where load factors have approached 95%. It hopes to strip Scandinavian traffic away from rivals and allies alike.

Executive vice president commercial Vagn Sorenson says SAS can achieve its goal within current fleet planning and that recent aircraft orders have been aimed squarely at boosting capacity. The carrier ordered 12 185-seat Airbus A321s (and 12 options), with deliveries beginning this year, and is poised to take the last of 55 Next Generation Boeing 737s, having restructured the order in favour of higher capacity -700s and -800s.

Its long-haul fleet of Boeing 767s is to be replaced by larger Airbus A330-300s and A340-300s, while 46-seat Fokker 50s have been replaced by 72-seat Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s, although these are "still not satisfactory" after "major teething trouble", Sorenson says. Regional jets remain a possibility, with SAS talking to manufacturers, but the need is "not urgent".

SAS currently has Swedish, Danish and Norwegian parent companies with separate listings, but has moved to establish a single holding company with one listing. It hopes this will help raise cash and boost trading. SAS is Europe's sixth-most traded airline stock, but aims to climb to third.

Source: Flight International