Scandinavian carrier SAS is looking to replace its Airbus A319s and Boeing737-700s in order to set up a single-type regional fleet. The airline has said it is considering both the Airbus A220 and the Embraer E2 as options for the future. It operates a long-haul fleet of entirely Airbus aircraft.
A single-type regional fleet
SAS is looking to change its regional aircraft. The airline currently operates 737-700s and A319s on regional routes within its main operations. However, it is now looking to create a separate division for its regional operations. To do this, it wants new aircraft.
Chief Executive Rickard Gustafson is aiming for a smooth transition that won’t affect passengers. He commented that,
“We need to have a replacement up and running to avoid shrinking the operation and leaving regions unserved”.
But the time scale is tight. With no planes yet on order, SAS is hoping that its existing fleet of 737s and A319s will be phased out between 2022-2023. That’s just a couple of years. But the airline cited financial and sustainability in reasons for changing its fleet to slightly smaller jets. Currently, 20% of its network is operated by A319s and 737-700s.
However, the airline won’t place an order until several prerequisites have been met. Firstly, its operational model must be based on a single-type fleet to maximize cost efficiency and minimize complexity. It also needs to have crew arrangements in place for regional operations. To this end, it recently signed a deal with flight personnel union FPU.
The future of SAS
While the move over to a brand new, efficient regional operations sounds like the right way to go, it comes across as more of a rescue attempt than an innovative change. Over the first quarter of the year, the airline’s net loss rose by over 80% to SKr861 million ($88 million). However, the airline insists its summer booking is going to make up for the poor start to the year.
For the future of its regional jets, it is torn between choosing the Airbus A220 or the Embraer E2. Both jets use Pratt & Whitney geared-fan engines. The A220 uses the PW1500G while the Embraer model uses the PW1900G.
But Gustafson has expressed concerns, saying,
“Those technologies available today – the A220 and Embraer option – both still have engine issues to resolve before we feel that they can operate with the robustness we anticipate and expect.”
But if he expects to meet the 2022 deadline, he’ll have to make up his mind soon.
While the airline is choosing between the two aircraft for its regional jets, it already operates a long-haul fleet of Airbus planes. Currently, it has nine A330-300s and seven A340-300 with its first A350-900 launching in January. It also has three Airbus A321LR on order.
With so many Airbus aircraft in its long-haul fleet, its no surprise it is considering the A220 for its regional offering. If however, the airline selects the Embraer E2 it could be a statement regarding the perceived reliability of the aircraft.
The airline has expressed concerns regarding incidents involving A220 aircraft operated by Swiss and Air Baltic. Investigations are ongoing and may push SAS to opt for the Embraer. Although, the similarity between the engines on the two aircraft may negate this concern.
Whichever the airline chooses, we should see an order soon. Which way do you think SAS will go?