In early February, the President and CEO of SAS, Jørgen Lindegaard, took the time to join the three Scandinavian Chambers of Commerce in Thailand for a function in downtown Bangkok. Taking the floor to share about the airline’s future in the region, Mr. Lindegaard revealed that plans are currently in the making for increasing the SAS traffic to various destinations in Southeast Asia.
”We want to be the leading and preferred airline for flights between Northern Europe and Asia. But so do many other Northern European airlines, so we are in a very tight competition. However, we think we have something to offer the Scandinavian community in Southeast Asia, and the plan that we have right now is to add a couple of extra frequencies to the existing number of flights to Asia,” the SAS President told the representatives of the Danish-Thai, Thai-Swedish, and Thai-Norwegian Chambers of Commerce – without revealing the specific flights in question.
Copenhagen as the Main Hub
Recent numbers show that only 55 percent of all SAS’ passenger seats actually had a passenger attached to them throughout the month of January 2005 (when counting all SAS flights, both regional and intercontinental). However, this is not affecting the airline’s income, which has now begun to increase for the first time since 2001.
Addressing the Chambers of Commerce in Bangkok, Mr. Lindegaard said that the SAS Group is expecting the recent cuts and restructuring to yield an overall profit in 2005. And although critics are suggesting that SAS are currently letting too many planes take off, Mr. Lindegaard begged to differ in regards to the intercontinental traffic to and from Asia. If the boom in Southeast Asia continues, SAS might not just be adding flight frequencies, but also consider opening direct flights to and from Stockholm in a few years.
”We are very satisfied with what we do today. But we know there is more we can do – especially in Southeast Asia, which is going through an incredible development. Not only are we looking actively at increasing the number of flight frequencies, there is also a growing need in the Swedish community to fly directly to and from Stockholm, and we are looking actively into how we can do that as we continue to develop our network to Southeast Asia,” he stated at the brief pre-function press conference, where he was flanked by SAS’ General Manager in Thailand, Indochina, Taiwan and the Philippines, Axel Blom.
”However, Copenhagen is our main hub for long-distance flights, and it is our strategy to cover all of our intercontinental operations exclusively from Copenhagen until we reach the point of having at least 6 weekly departures on each route. Stockholm will only be considered as an additional point of departure for direct flights to Asia, if the need for more frequencies to a certain destination continues to increase in addition to the 6 or 7 weekly departures from Copenhagen. Right now, we still have to focus on having just one hub, namely Copenhagen, since Scandinavia is too small for having several hubs,” Axel Blom added.
Following the Industrial Climate Changes
With the current weekly SAS traffic to Asia out of Copenhagen being close to reaching the goal of daily departures (in case of Tokyo and Beijing, this is already achieved), it might not be much longer before the words ventured by the SAS top management at the function in Bangkok will have to be converted into action. In the end, though, Jørgen Lindegaard underlines that it will all depend on the growth of Scandinavian business in the region.
”We are still the business man’s airline, more than we are an airline dependant on tourism flows. We follow the Scandinavian industry where they operate, so we are actually more dependant on how many Volvos there will be sold out here, how many Ericsson phones etc.,” he said.