Searching For Sun: SAS Eyes Winter Latin America Flights

An increasing number of European airlines are seeking winter leisure opportunities across the world. They’re launching or planning to begin long-haul routes to Mexico, the Caribbean, Africa, and Thailand in particular. And now Scandinavia’s SAS is eyeing Latin America.

SAS A350
Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, or Costa Rica are good contenders for service to Latin America. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

SAS is keen to launch Latin American flights

Speaking at World Routes, Anko van der Werff, the recently appointed CEO of SAS, revealed that the carrier is looking at the possibility of serving Latin America. The purpose would be to benefit from winter demand from leisure travelers.

As you’d expect, der Werff, previously CEO of Colombia’s Avianca, gave no timeframe  – except ruling out this coming winter as so little lead time and entry restrictions – and he didn’t narrow down possible destinations. You’d not expect him to. He said:

“I happen to have spent a few years in Latin America, so I know how beautiful these markets are. I think that many of them can and will work, but not this winter – that comes too soon.”

SAS A350
SAS would offer time-limited and low-frequency service (probably twice-weekly) and could stimulate demand with brand-new non-stops. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

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Where might be targeted?

Multiple new winter routes have started or will begin from Europe. Earlier this year, KLM announced six, including Cancun and others across the Caribbean, Africa, and more. And Virgin Atlantic has grown its Caribbean network helped by increasing higher-end leisure demand.

Meanwhile, Eurowings Discover has inaugurated various winter routes, Finnair has started Stockholm to Phuket and more, while Spain’s World2Fly has introduced Madrid to Havana.

Booking data for the winter 2019 period suggests that over 375,000 round trip passengers traveled between Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Latin America. Mexico and the Caribbean are included for the benefit of this article, although some readers may disagree with this.

Brazil was the largest country market from all three Nordic nations, with winter traffic exceeding 90,000. Of vacation hotspots, Rio de Janeiro was the single largest point-to-point Latin America market with ~33,000 winter passengers. Next was Cancun with ~26,000, Havana with ~25,000, and San Jose (Costa Rica) with ~19,000.

Possible SAS routes to Latin America
This winter, 70% of SAS long-haul seats are from Copenhagen. Might any of these winter routes in the map materialize in winter 2022? Image: GCMap.

SAS to the US and Asia this winter

This coming winter, SAS has 14 long-haul routes, defined as over 3,000 miles (4,828km). Nine are from Copenhagen (Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, San Francisco, Shanghai Pudong, Tokyo Haneda, Washington), three from Stockholm (Chicago, Miami, Newark), and two from Oslo (Miami, Newark). Another from Copenhagen (Beijing) is scheduled but unbookable.

SAS has grown its US offering, with seats for sale up by 9% versus winter 2019. This is because of the growth from Copenhagen to Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Los Angeles launched in January 2020, Chicago now mainly uses higher-density A350s, while Boston is year-round because of the A321LR.

As der Werff said: “Once that announcement came from the Biden administration [regarding the US reopening], we saw demand immediately picking up, and booking levels [are] already outpacing 2019.”

If SAS does launch Latin America winter flights, where would you like them to fly? Let us know in the comments.