SAS Scandinavian Airlines has flagged a delivery delay to two of the three A321-200neo LRs it has on order from Airbus. The first of these planes is still due to be delivered in September 2020, but the second and third have been pushed back to 2021.
A report in Airways has SAS Executive Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer Torbjørn Wist citing production delays as the reason, at a quarterly investor’s briefing last week.
A small order that’s sparked wide interest
The SAS order, while small, has sparked wider interest. They intend to use the long-range narrowbody aircraft on routes they call “long and skinny.”
The first route SAS intends to try is Copenhagen – Boston – Copenhagen. SAS plans on starting to operate on this route later in 2020 using some long-range narrowbody aircraft coming in from Air Lease Corporation.
It is normally about eight hours flying time between Boston and Copenhagen. While the route isn’t going to break into the world’s top ten longest routes, it is a fair bit of time to spend in a narrowbody.
But it is somewhat of a trend. Several airlines are already, or actively planning to, operate narrowbody aircraft on transatlantic routes.
Karl Sandlund, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer has previously said;
“This is an entirely new aircraft type for SAS, which is incredibly well suited to the Scandinavian market and emerging travel patterns to and from the region.
“It gives SAS an opportunity to offer travelers more intercontinental routes, fewer stopovers and shorter travel times to and from Scandinavia.
“The new aircraft is equipped with a service concept at par with the rest of SAS’ long-haul fleet, offering passengers all the benefits, level of comfort and choices of our traveling classes,”
A mixed experience for passengers
The A321LR will accommodate 157 passengers. For most passengers, stuck in the 3-3 economy class seats, it will be a long flight despite the marketing spin about enhanced cabins, reduced noise, and meeting customers’ expectations.
But the business class passengers will have a slightly easier flight. One of the reasons the SAS A321LR has caught people’s attention is their plan to install 22 lie-flat business seats. That’s going to take up a sizeable amount of the plane’s floor space. While SAS has obviously run the numbers and must be confident in its decision, it will be interesting to watch the passenger uptake levels, feedback, and to see whether passengers will happily take a narrowbody aircraft when options such as A350s and 787s are available.
Fleet renewal underway at SAS
As more long-range narrowbody aircraft come into the SAS fleet, the airline is reportedly eyeing routes into Canada, the Middle East and India.
SAS calls its small A321LR order a trial. In addition to opening new routes, the new aircraft represent an opportunity for fleet renewal and savings. By 2023, barring further delays, SAS expects to become an all-Airbus airline. That will please the crowd in Toulouse, if not in Seattle.
In addition to its A321LR order, SAS has eight A350-900XWB’s coming into the fleet. These will replace SAS’s older A340s.
While the A321LR delivery delay is a setback for SAS, the airline looks set to power into the 2020s. We will be watching these new narrowbody routes with interest.