Scandinavia’s SAS has outlined the strategic options for deploying its new long-range Airbus A321LRs, stating that it will use the aircraft as a small-scale test platform.

SAS is intending to introduce three of the variant from summer 2020.

Chief executive Rickard Gustafson says the airline intends to use them as a “starting point, a test-bench” in order to “see what type of response we get from the market”.

He says SAS views the A321LR as a complement to its twin-aisle long-haul operation, and that the aircraft should be capable of reaching the North American east coast as well as India and the Middle East.

It is considering using the aircraft to provide more direct long-haul connectivity from Scandinavia, linking secondary cities in the region to primary destinations on its network.

While Gustafson says candidate routes have yet to be determined, he points to the examples of serving New York from Bergen or Aarhus.

He adds that the A321 can also help the carrier “adapt long-haul operations to seasonality”, citing the carrier’s US route to Boston.

“We can operate Boston with a widebody [aircraft] during summer,” he says. “But it’s not economical to do that during winter.”

Combining a twin-aisle operation for the peak season with the A321LR during the low-demand periods would enable the airline to continue offering year-round service.

Gustafson says the A321LR will be configured with a three-class cabin, including lie-flat seats in premium class.

He stresses that the conservative introduction of the A321LR is in line with SAS’s strategy of seeking profitable expansion, “rather than growth for the sake of growth”.

SAS will carry out an evaluation of the performance of the initial few aircraft and, says Gustafson, “either scale up or scale down”.

Source: Cirium Dashboard