Scandinavian Airlines

Scandinavian Airlines, usually known as SAS, is the flag carrier of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, which together form Scandinavia.[3] SAS is an abbreviation of the company's full name, Scandinavian Airlines System[4] or legally Scandinavian Airlines System Denmark-Norway-Sweden.[5] Part of the SAS Group and headquartered at the SAS Frösundavik Office Building in Solna, Sweden, the airline operates 180 aircraft to 90 destinations (as of dec 2019)[6]. The airline's main hub is at Copenhagen-Kastrup Airport, with connections to 109 destinations around the world. Stockholm-Arlanda Airport (with 106 destinations) is the second largest hub and Oslo Airport, Gardermoen being the third major hub of SAS.[7] Minor hubs also exist at Bergen Airport, Flesland, Göteborg Landvetter Airport, Stavanger Airport, Sola, and Trondheim Airport, Værnes. SAS Cargo is an independent, wholly owned subsidiary of Scandinavian Airlines and its main office is at Copenhagen Airport.[8]

Scandinavian Airlines
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded1 August 1946 (1 August 1946)
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer programEuroBonus
AllianceStar Alliance
SubsidiariesScandinavian Airlines Ireland
Fleet size159
Company sloganWe are travelers
Parent companySAS Group
HeadquartersSolna, Stockholm, Sweden
Key people
RevenueSEK 44,718 million[2]

In 2017, SAS carried 28.6 million passengers, achieving revenues of 40 billion Swedish kronor.[9] This makes it the eighth-largest airline in Europe. The SAS fleet is composed of 180 aircraft consisting of Airbus A319, Airbus A320, Airbus A320neo, Airbus A321, Airbus A330 and Airbus A340; and Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft.[6] SAS also wet leases Airbus A320neo, ATR 72, and Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft.[10]

The airline was founded in 1946 as a consortium to pool the transatlantic operations of Swedish airline Svensk Interkontinental Lufttrafik, Norway's Det Norske Luftfartselskap and Det Danske Luftfartselskab of Denmark. The consortium was extended to cover European and domestic cooperation two years later. In 1951, all the airlines were merged to create SAS. SAS has been described as "an icon of Norwegian–Swedish–Danish cooperation".[11] On 27 June 2018, the Norwegian government announced that it had sold all its shares in SAS.[12][13]

In 1997, SAS was a founding member of one of the major airline alliances, Star Alliance.



The airline was founded on 1 August 1946, when Svensk Interkontinental Lufttrafik AB (an airline owned by the Swedish Wallenberg family), Det Danske Luftfartselskab A/S, and Det Norske Luftfartselskap AS (the flag carriers of Denmark and Norway) formed a partnership to handle the intercontinental air traffic of these three Scandinavian countries.[14] Operations started on 17 September 1946. In 1948 the Swedish flag carrier AB Aerotransport joined SAS and the companies coordinated European operations and finally merged to form the SAS Consortium in 1951. When established, the airline was divided between SAS Danmark (28.6%), SAS Norge (28.6%), and SAS Sverige (42.8%), all owned 50% by private investors and 50% by their governments.[15]

Transpolar route

In 1954 SAS was the first airline to start scheduled flights on a polar route. The Douglas DC-6B flew from Copenhagen to Los Angeles with stops in Søndre Strømfjord (now Kangerlussuaq) in Greenland and Winnipeg in Canada. By summer 1956 frequency had increased to three flights per week. It was popular with Hollywood celebrities and film industry people, and the route turned out to be a publicity coup for SAS. Thanks to a tariff structure that allowed free transit to other European destinations via Copenhagen, this trans-polar route gained increasing popularity with American tourists throughout the 1950s. In 1957 SAS started a second polar route when a Douglas DC-7C flew from Copenhagen to Tokyo via Anchorage International Airport in Alaska. The flight via Alaska was a compromise solution since the Soviet Union would not allow SAS, among other air carriers, to fly across Siberia between Europe and Japan, and Chinese airspace was also closed.[4]

Jet era

SAS entered the jet age in 1959 when the Sud Aviation Caravelle entered service, with the Douglas DC-8 then joining the fleet the next year. In 1971, SAS put its first Boeing 747 jumbo jet into service.[16]

During its first decades, the airline built two large hotels in central Copenhagen, SAS Royal Hotel (5 stars) and the even larger SAS Hotel Scandinavia (4 stars, with a casino on the 26th floor). After the deregulation of European commercial aviation and the crisis afterwards which affected SAS, like many other national airline corporations, Scandinavian Airlines sold its hotels to Radisson.

Acquisition of local airlines

SAS gradually acquired control of the domestic markets in all three countries by acquiring full or partial control of local airlines, including Braathens and Widerøe in Norway; Linjeflyg and Skyways Express in Sweden; and Cimber Air in Denmark. In 1989, SAS acquired 18.4% of Texas Air Corporation, the parent company of Continental Airlines, in a bid to form a global alliance. This stake was later sold. During the 1990s, SAS also bought a 20% stake in British Midland. SAS bought 95% of Spanair, the second-largest airline in Spain, as well as Air Greenland. An agreement to divest more than 80 percent of the holdings in Spanair was signed with a Catalan group of investors led by Consorci de Turisme de Barcelona and Catalana d'Inciatives in January 2009.[17]

Star Alliance founding member

In May 1997, SAS formed the global Star Alliance network with Air Canada, Lufthansa, Thai Airways International, and United Airlines. Four years earlier SAS unsuccessfully tried to merge with KLM, Star Alliance partner Austrian Airlines, and the now-defunct Swissair, in a project called Alcazar. This failure led to the departure the following year of CEO Jan Carlzon, who was credited for the financial turnaround of the company starting in 1981 and who envisioned SAS ownership of multiple airlines worldwide. The ownership structure of SAS was changed in June 2001, with a holding company being created in which the holdings of the governments changed to Sweden (21.4%), Norway (14.3%), and Denmark (14.3%) and the remaining 50% publicly held and traded on the stock market.

Recent history (2004–present)

In 2004 Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) was divided into four companies; SAS Scandinavian Airlines Sverige AB, SAS Scandinavian Airlines Danmark A/S, SAS Braathens AS, and SAS Scandinavian International AS. SAS Braathens was re-branded SAS Scandinavian Airlines Norge AS in 2007.[18] In October 2009 the four companies were once again united into one company, SAS Scandinavian System AB.

With the coming of low-cost airlines and decreasing fares in Scandinavia, the business turned into the red. To be profitable again, the airline had to cut costs. In a first step, the airline sold its stakes in other companies, such as British Midland International, Spanair, and airBaltic, and began to restructure its operations.[19][20][21] This was to save costs by about 23 percent between 2008 and 2011. In November 2012 the company came under heavy pressure from its owners and banks to implement even heavier cost-cutting measures as a condition for continued financial support. Negotiations with the respective trade unions took place for more than a week and exceeded the original deadline, but in the end, SAS and the trade unions reached an agreement that would increase the work time, cutting salary between 12-20%, pension, and retirement plans, and thus keep the airline flying. SAS drew some criticism for how it handled the negotiations, in denying facilities to the union delegations.[22]

In 2017, it was announced that SAS would form a new airline, Scandinavian Airlines Ireland, operating out of Heathrow Airport and Malaga Airport to fly European routes on its parent's behalf using nine new A320Neo aircraft.

As part of an environmental initiative launched by SFO, in December 2018 SAS flights operating out of SFO have been supplied with sustainable aviation fuel from Shell and SkyNRG.[23][24]

Corporate affairs

The key trends for Scandinavian Airlines Group (which includes SAS Cargo, SAS Ground Handling, and SAS Tech), are shown below:

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012[lower-alpha 1]
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Turnover (SEKm) 47,536 39,696 36,524 36,735 33,148 42,182 38,006 39,650 39,459 42,654 44,718
Profit before tax (EBT) (SEKm) 188 1,522 33 543 228 1,648 918 1,417 1,431 1,725 2,041
Number of employees (average FTE) 16,286 14,438 13,723 13,479 13,591 14,127 12,329 11,288 10,710 10,324 10,146
Number of passengers (m) 30.9 27.0 27.1 29.0 25.9 30.4 29.4 28.1 29.4 30.1 30.1
Passenger load factor (%) 72.3 72.7 75.6 74.9 76.7 75.0 76.9 76.3 76.0 76.8 75.7
Total unit cost (CASK) (SEK) 0.94 1.01 0.95 0.86 0.81 0.80 0.75 0.79 0.70 0.69 0.72
Total unit revenue (RASK) (SEK) 0.91 0.92 0.86 0.82 0.82 0.78 0.70 0.80
Number of aircraft (at year end) 181 172 159 147 145 139 138 152 156 158 157
Figures for SAS Group. Notes/sources: [26] [26] [27] [28] [29][30] [31] [32] [33] [33]

Head office

Scandinavian Airlines' head office is located in the SAS Frösundavik Office Building in Frösundavik, Solna Municipality, Sweden, near Stockholm.[34] Between 2011 and 2013, the head office was located at Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN) in Sigtuna Municipality, Sweden.[35] The SAS Cargo Group A/S head office is in Kastrup, Tårnby Municipality, Denmark.[36]

The SAS Frösundavik Office Building,[37][38] was designed by Niels Torp Architects and built between 1985 and 1987. The move from Solna to Arlanda was completed in 2010.[39] A previous SAS head office was located on the grounds of Bromma Airport in Stockholm.[40] In 2013 SAS announced that it once again would relocate to Frösundavik.[34]


As for other airlines, burned fossil fuel and emitted greenhouse gases are significant side effects from the company activities. The following table gives and overview of emissions of greenhouse gases in CO2e emitted by the company as reported in the European Union Emission Trading Scheme. Data for passengers, aircraft and profit from section Business Trends above.

Verified emissions as reported in EU ETS
Year 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Emissions (tonnes CO2e)[41] 2334686 2366299 2357470 2432546 2485804 2466820
Passengers (millions) 30.4 29.4 28.1 29.4 30.1 30.1
Emissions per passenger (kg) 77 80 84 83 83 82
Aircraft 139 138 152 156 158 157
Emissions per aircraft (tonnes CO2e) 16796 17147 15510 15593 15733 15712
Profit (million SEK) 1648 −918 1417 1431 1725 2041
Profit per emissions (SEK/tonne) 706 −388 601 588 694 827

In contrast to most other businesses and private individuals in Sweden, airlines are exempt from the Swedish carbon tax. Had SAS payed the Swedish carbon tax level of SEK 1180 (EUR 114) per tonne (as of 2019)[42] for all of its emissions, it would have had significant impact on recent profit levels. Since 2012 airlines are included in the EU ETS. In January 2013 the price for extra emission rights on top of the granted were approximately EUR 6.3 per tonne. In May 2017 the price was EUR 4.9 per tonne. [43]


Codeshare agreements

Scandinavian Airlines has codeshare agreements with the following airlines:[44]

Interline agreements

Scandinavian Airlines has interlining agreements with the following airlines:


Current fleet

As of December 2019, Scandinavian Airlines operates the following aircraft:[48][49]

Scandinavian Airlines fleet
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
C Y M Total
Airbus A319-100 4 150 150 One painted in a retro livery.[50]
Airbus A320-200 11 168 168
Airbus A320neo 24 47[51] 180 180 Deliveries until 2023.
Replacing Boeing 737 Next Generation.
Airbus A321-200 8 200 200
Airbus A321LR 3[52] 22 12 123 157 Deliveries from 2020.[53]
Airbus A330-300 9 32 56 174 262
32 56 178 266
Airbus A340-300 7 40 28 179 247 One painted in the Star Alliance livery.[54]
To be replaced by Airbus A350-900.[55]
Airbus A350-900 1[56] 7[57] 40 32 228 300 Deliveries until 2021.[58][59]
Inaugural flight to take place on 28 January 2020.[60]
Replacing Airbus A340-300.[55]
Boeing 737-700 23 141 141 To be replaced by Airbus A320neo.[61]
Boeing 737-800 28 181 181 Three painted in the Star Alliance livery.[62]
To be replaced by Airbus A320neo.[51]
183 183
Wet-leased aircraft
Airbus A320neo 9 180 180 Operated by Scandinavian Airlines Ireland.[63]
ATR 72-600 3 70 70 Operated by Flybe
7 Operated by Nordica.
Bombardier CRJ900 22 90 90 Operated by CityJet.
Three aircraft to be relocated to Nordica.
2 Operated by Nordica.
Three aircraft to be relocated from Cityjet and two more aircraft to be phased in.
1 Operated by Air Nostrum.
Total 159 57

Future fleet plans

Short haul

On 20 June 2011, SAS announced an order for 30 new A320neo aircraft as part of its fleet harmonisation plan.[64] SAS' stated goal is to have an all-Airbus fleet at its bases in Stockholm and Copenhagen by 2019, with a mixed A320neo and A320ceo fleet operation at both bases. The base in Oslo will then operate mostly Boeing 737-800 aircraft, with a few 737-700s also being retained. The older, smaller 737-600s are disposed in 2019.[61] The first of the order of A320neos was delivered in October 2016.[65] In April 2018, SAS announced an order of 50 more A320neos to replace all 737NGs and older A320ceos in service as part of its goal to have an all-Airbus fleet by 2023.[51]

Long haul

On 25 June 2013, SAS and Airbus signed a Memorandum of Understanding stating that SAS intends to buy twelve new-generation aircraft, including six options. The agreement consists of eight A350-900s with six options and four A330-300Es. The first new long haul aircraft to enter service will be the A330-300E, which were originally planned to replace the aging A340-300s in 2015 as leasing agreements on these aircraft expire. Instead, SAS renewed the leasing agreements to be able to expand its long-haul fleet and used the new A330-300Es to add more long-haul destinations to its network. The A350-900 is planned to enter service in November 2019. SAS has dubbed this "a total renewal of long haul fleet", indicating that all former A340 and A330 will be replaced, although the total renewal could also refer to the new interior in the long haul fleet.[66]

The first of 8 Airbus A350-900s for SAS is expected to be delivered to the airline before the end of 2019 and to start to operate long haul routes from 28 January 2020.[67] The A350 will first fly on the Copenhagen and Chicago route, with the airline planning Beijing, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and San Francisco when more A350 are delivered in 2020.[68]

Removal of SAS Q400 fleet

In September 2007, two separate incidents of similar landing gear failures occurred within four days of each other on SAS Bombardier Q400 aircraft. A third incident occurred in October 2007. On 28 October 2007, in a move that was described as unique by the Swedish press, the board of directors announced that all 27 Bombardier Q400 aircraft were to be removed from service due to the three landing gear failures.[69]

A press release from SAS said that the company had reached a settlement with Bombardier and Goodrich, whereby the airline would receive SEK one billion as compensation, while SAS would purchase 27 new aircraft, with an option of 24 more. These aircraft would consist of 13 of the Bombardier CRJ900 Nextgen (10 to SAS and 3 to Estonian Air) and 14 of the updated Q400 Nextgen units (8 to airBaltic and 6 to Widerøe), with 7 additional options.[70][71] SAS received the first CRJ-900 on 3 December 2008.

In November 2007, it was revealed that the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration began an investigation and accused Scandinavian Airlines System of cutting corners during maintenance. The airline reportedly made 2,300 flights in which safety equipment was not up to standard.[72]


The current livery was introduced in 1998 and is designed by SthlmLab (Stockholm Design Lab). SAS aircraft look predominantly white, however, the fuselage is in a very light beige (Pantone Warm Gray 2/Pantone 9083C) with "Scandinavian" above the windows in silver lettering (Pantone 877) and "Airlines" below the windows in white. The typeface used is Rotis Semi Serif. The vertical stabiliser (and winglets) are painted blue (Pantone 2738C) with the classic white SAS logo on it. It is a variant of the traditional SAS logotype, slimmed slightly and stylised by the design company Stockholm Design Lab, as part of the SAS livery change. The engine casing is painted in scarlet (Pantone Warm Red/Pantone 179C) with the word Scandinavian in white, the thrust reversers in the colour of the fuselage. All other text is painted in Pantone Warm Gray 9. The design also features stylised versions of the Scandinavian flags. All aircraft are named, traditionally after Vikings.

In September 2019, SAS unveiled an all-new livery,[73] which will initially be showcased on a new A350 and an A320neo, before gradually being rolled out to the whole fleet.

Apart from the standard livery, SAS also has an Airbus A319 in retro livery and two Boeing 737s and one Airbus A340 in Star Alliance livery.


SAS Business

On long-haul flights business class, called SAS Business, is still offered and features wide sleeper seats. On the Airbus A330s and upgraded Airbus A340s seating is 1-2-1 on seats that convert into 196–202 centimetres (77–80 in) flat beds, with power sockets and a 15 inches (380 mm) entertainment screen.

SAS Plus

Plus is SAS' premium economy class. On wide-body aircraft, seating has a 2-3-2 configuration. The seats offered on SAS Plus are wider than those in the SAS Go section.

On European flights, SAS Plus tickets are refundable and include a meal, a double checked-in baggage allowance, and access to lounges and fast track security at the airport. The SAS Plus passengers are seated at the front of the aircraft and passengers can choose their seat at booking for free, but the seats there are otherwise the same as the SAS Go seats. The two-class system was introduced in June 2013, when business class was eliminated from intra-European flights.[74]


SAS Go, or economy offers 3-3 seating on intracontinental flights, and 2-4-2 on the A330s and A340s.

SAS offers free coffee and tea to GO passengers on short-haul services, except very short flights like Bergen-Stavanger or Stockholm-Visby. Meals are served to all passengers on long-haul flights.

SAS Go Light

SAS Go Light is a variant of SAS Go with no checked luggage included. Tickets are sold in the same booking class as SAS Go and are otherwise identical. As of December 14, 2017, SAS Go Light is available on both European and Long-haul flights. It is not available on flights within the Nordic countries. SAS Go Light is aimed at competing with low-cost carriers for those who travel with hand luggage only. Extra luggage allowance for EuroBonus Silver, Gold, and Diamond members does not apply on SAS Go Light tickets and is only valid for EuroBonus Pandion members.


Fingerprint biometric identification

In 2006, SAS Sweden launched a new biometric system for use throughout Sweden. Each passenger's fingerprints are, for security purposes, matched to their respective checked baggage. The new technology will be phased in at all the airports served by SAS, although the use of the system is voluntary for passengers. The system has been introduced in Norway. [75]


SAS's frequent-flyer program is called EuroBonus. Members earn points on all SAS and Widerøe flights as well as on Star Alliance flights. The EuroBonus program has more than four million members.[76]

Fly Home Club

Fly Home Club was SAS's membership club for Scandinavians living in Spain. It has closed ever since economic conditions have worsened in Spain and as Scandinavians living in Spain have decided to return home or change locations.


Between 1984 and 1994 SAS operated a hovercraft service between Malmö in Sweden and Copenhagen Airport in Denmark. Travellers could check in for their flights in Malmö and the hovercraft were operated as connecting flights. In 1994 the hovercraft were replaced by catamarans that operated until 2000 when the Öresund bridge was opened and offered a rail link between Malmö and Copenhagen airport.[77]


In May 2018, SAS launched a new high-speed WiFi system supplied by Viasat. The service is being rolled out on SAS short and medium-haul fleet and is expected to take two years to complete. The new system is much faster than previously available and will enable passengers to stream movies on board. Before this, SAS only offered WiFi on board on its long haul aircraft and a small number of Boeing 737s. WiFi is free for Eurobonus Gold and Diamond members as well as for those travelling in SAS Plus or Business. Otherwise, WiFi can be purchased with EuroBonus points or for a small fee.[78]


  • 2010:
    • Flightstats: Worlds Most Punctual Airline[79]
    • Simpliflying: Best Use of Social Media in a Crisis Situation[80]
  • 2011:
    • Edge Awards: Favourite Airline[81]
    • Grand Travel Award: Europe's Best Airline[82]
    • Webbie: Online Campaign of the Year[83]
  • 2012:
    • Webbie Award: Online Campaign of the Year[84]
  • 2013:
    • Freddie Awards: Best Customer Service in Europe/Africa[85]
    • Sustainable Brand Index: Most Sustainable Airline[86]
  • 2014:
    • Grand Travel Award: Europe's Best Airline[87]
  • 2015:
    • Grand Travel Award: Europe's Best Airline[88]
    • ServiceScore: Airline with highest service standards.[89]

Incidents and accidents

See also


  1. In 2012 the company changed its financial year to 1 November–31 October, instead of the calendar year.[25] The figures above are therefore for years ending 31 December until 2011, for the 10 months to 31 October 2012, and for years ending 31 October thereafter.
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