SAS To Operate Once-Weekly Shanghai Flights From Copenhagen

Scandinavian airline SAS has announced it will resume flights to China at the end of September. The airline suspended its flights on January 31st due to concerns over the developing COVID-19 situation. Now, eight months later, the airline has received approval to operate a flight connecting Copenhagen and Shanghai from September 29th.

SAS A350 twitter
SAS will resume flights to China from the end of September. Photo: SAS

Expanding network

Initially, SAS suspended flights to China at the end of January just temporarily until February 9th. This was extended twice. The first time until the end of February and then until the end of March. Looking back, even the extension until the end of March was wildly optimistic.

Now, after eight months of no service, SAS obtained permission from the Chinese authorities to resume its flight from Copenhagen to Shanghai. Starting from September 29th, one of SAS’s brand-new Airbus A350 will set off for Shanghai. To begin with, the flight will operate just once per week. In a statement on its website, the airline said,

“The reopening of the route is vital for trade. With the reopening of the route, SAS is aiming to meet demand for business travel and air freight services between Scandinavia and China.”

If all goes well, and the airline secures the correct approvals, SAS also hopes to resume operating a flight to Beijing at the end of October. The two new routes to China mean SAS will operate flights to 77 destinations. Before the global downturn, it offered passengers flights to around 125 destinations From Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo.

SAS To Operate Once-Weekly Shanghai Flights From Copenhagen
SAS will use one of its new, low-emission Airbus A350s on the route to Shanghai. Photo: Airbus

But just as SAS is looking to open routes to new destinations and expand its network, it is also warning passengers that the situation may still change. This cautious approach doesn’t hide the fact that financially, SAS needs to get planes in the sky.

August showed a marked increase in demand, but SAS still saw 74% fewer passengers than in August 2019. While this does show signs of improvement compared to previous months, it’s not enough to get the airline out of financial trouble.

Financial aid for recovery

In June, the Swedish and Danish governments, as well as several other backers, awarded the airline a bailout loan worth around $1.3 billion. However, the loan came with conditions that state the airline has to reduce its carbon emissions. This is fantastic in theory, and SAS was well on the way to replacing its old aircraft with a new Airbus fleet. However, the airline has had to delay the delivery of its new aircraft because of the pandemic.

SAS airbus getty images
SAS is still operating a smaller network than usual. It has been forced to delay the delivery of several new aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

Additionally, President and CEO Rickard Gustafson confirmed at a teleconference that “SAS will not survive this pandemic crisis without gaining access to equity and new capital.” SAS had already laid off staff before the bailout loan was announced and has laid off more since the loan, confirming that it needs more money to survive.

The airline has always said that as demand increases, it hopes to welcome staff back to SAS. Many former employees must see the new routes to China as a sign that the airline is now looking towards recovery.

What do you think of SAS’s new routes? Will we see more opening soon? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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