Tri-national flag carrier's operations to be autonomous by start of 2004 winter schedule

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) is set to finalise details of its fleet division plan this month, which will see aircraft types concentrated at each of its three bases in an attempt to reduce costs.

By its 2004 winter schedule, the tri-national flag carrier's airline operations in Denmark, Norway and Sweden will be autonomous, with each new business unit responsible for future route development, as part of a wider SAS Group decentralisation and cost- cutting programme.

SAS would also like to dispose of its recently delivered fleet of eight Airbus A321s, as they are "now too big for the Stockholm-Oslo route for which they were bought", says SAS chief operating officer Sören Belin. With new competition on the route reducing SAS's traffic, Belin says the A321 fleet would be sold "if we could get a good price for all eight".

The carrier is divesting power for short-haul operations to its bases in Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm Arlanda. The majority of the airline's short-haul fleet will be based at its Copenhagen hub, with 65 aircraft including 29 Boeing MD-80/90s; while eight A321s, 10 MD-80s and 35 Next Generation 737 types will be based in Arlanda. Meanwhile, Oslo will acquire the remaining 25 737NGs. The airline is looking for ways of creating economies of scale with the existing fleet "as we don't have the money to overhaul the fleet", says Sören Belin, SAS executive vice-president and chief operating officer.

SAS is also studying plans to integrate the operations of the Oslo base with those of its Norwegian subsidiary Braathens, which operates 737 Classics and 737NGs - 19 737-400/500s and eight -800s.

SAS has not yet formalised its plans, and the revamp is unlikely to be formally unveiled before the second quarter. Any rebranding is unlikely as Braathens enjoys a good reputation in Norway, says Belin, but he is "not convinced that SAS should nurture both brands". He adds that "we've been told that it is no big deal to have a single pilot pool for the two 737 families, with additional type rating". SAS's Norwegian division also operates seven Fokker 50s.

Under the new plan, only two of the airline's long-haul Airbus A330/A340 family will be based in Arlanda; the remaining eight will be at Copenhagen.

These aircraft replaced SAS's five Boeing 767-300ERs, which were withdrawn in October last year and are being returned to lessors or sold.

Source: Flight International