As travel restrictions once more abound across the European continent, airlines have again seen demand plummet overnight. According to Scandinavian Airlines’ CEO Rickard Gustafson in a presentation Thursday, roughly 70% of the carrier’s market is now classified as “closed,” while only 10% remain entirely open.
We know that countries decide on who is required to quarantine upon arrival according to a three-tiered color-coded system. Most often, this is based on the levels of infections per 100,000 citizens.
With the second wave rolling over Europe, the US hitting new levels of hospitalizations and a daily new case count of close to 200,000, and many countries never even coming out of the first bout against the virus, much of the global map has been red at some point or another.
Meanwhile, some airlines have also taken to breaking down their markets into categories based on a similar color scheme. Scandinavian Airlines, or SAS, has divided its markets into three categories: red, green, and amber.
At an interim presentation for the carrier’s fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday, SAS’s CEO Rickard Gustafson explained that red indicates that a country is closed for travel. Amber, or yellow, means that there is a recommendation not to travel and that there are some restrictions in place. Green, of course, signifies that the market, or country, is entirely open.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
Only 10% of markets remain open
At the beginning of the quarter, 41% of the markets where SAS normally operates were treated as red, 34% were amber, and 25% entirely green. However, with the second wave crashing over Europe with lockdowns and new restrictions in previously re-opened countries as a result, the balance has shifted even more towards red.
Roughly 70% of SAS markets are now in the red zone. The green portion has also dropped down to 10%, meaning the remaining 20% are now amber. Norway, previously considered open despite incoming quarantine restrictions and a home-market for the triple flag-carrier, turned amber as it now advises against all non-essential domestic travel.
Lag in scaling down
Meanwhile, the carrier also said that even though demand for a destination may disappear overnight, it is not all that easy to scale down operations on a dime. Passenger and their tickets need to be honored, as do the rosters for the crew. This has led to a delay in the downsizing of departures and a slight overcapacity for the airline in the fourth quarter.
A strong Swedish domestic market has also led to SAS recording more departures than many of its European counterparts that are normally larger airlines. However, the carrier has decided to accelerate the retirement of its Boeing 737s, transitioning towards a single-type fleet. Just two days ago, the airline’s final A340 also withdrew from the fleet and made its way to Arizona. Meanwhile, it has also reached agreements with Airbus to defer delivery of several new aircraft up until 2025.