Could this be one of the most unfortunate timings ever? Yesterday, passengers returning from France to Norway missed out on quarantine exemption by one minute after their plane touched down at 00:01 local time. Though passengers initially thought they had made it before the curfew, they will now need to isolate for 10 days.
One minute too late for SAS passengers
When news broke that France was to be put on a quarantine list by the Norwegian government on Thursday, travelers had just a few days to make it back to Norway if they wanted to escape self-isolation.
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On Friday, August 7th, a SAS Boeing 737 began its departure from Nice in France back to Oslo in Norway. The aircraft registered LN-RGG was completing flight number SK4700 and had plans to get back to Norway before the turn of the clock.
The plane left at 21:30 local time (19:30 UTC) and arrived at Oslo Airport after two and a half hours. It touched down on the runway nine minutes ahead of schedule to clapping from passengers.
The pilot announced that he had landed the plane at 00:00 local time, meaning that all passengers were exempt from quarantine. It was a sigh of relief for those onboard; however, everything was not as it seemed. In fact, the pilot had announced the wrong landing time. It was actually 00:01 local time. The aircraft had arrived too late.
All 158 passengers onboard the SAS flight returning from Nice will now be required to quarantine for ten days in line with government regulation. The passengers are under instruction to quarantine at their homes and to avoid using airport hotels.
Changing rules causing havoc for airlines
Norway is carefully monitoring any increases in coronavirus cases on a country by country basis. The government is using a formula that puts any country with 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days on a Red Zone list. This list dictates that anyone flying to Norway from those countries must complete a 10-day quarantine.
This week, France has joined that list as cases of coronavirus spike, alongside Switzerland, Monaco, and the Czech Republic.
For airlines, the fluidity of these changes is wreaking havoc with their plans to resume operations and claw back revenue lost during the peak of the pandemic. A likely knock-on effect from this latest Norwegian ruling is that passengers will be hesitant to travel to any of the above-listed places. Demand will decrease, and SAS will need to decide whether to reduce flight frequencies.
It is also likely that there are passengers booked on future services that will now want to cancel their trip. For SAS, refunding these tickets could be a drain on cashflow. Not the ideal situation for such a tough time.
SAS struggling to regain international demand
Regardless of the most recent quarantine rules, earlier this week, SAS said it was already struggling to recoup international demand. For July, its Revenue per Passenger Kilometers (RPK) was down 97.4% for intercontinental travel in comparison to the same period last year. Similarly, its European and Scandinavian RPK is down 84.7%. These new rules will certainly not help.
However, there has been light for the airline. SAS also shared that in July, it had recovered 61% of its RPK on domestic travel in comparison to July 2019. Where international travel dips, maybe SAS will be forced to bump up its domestic services.
How do you think SAS will deal with the latest quarantine rules? Have your say in the comments.