SAS carried 12,9% fewer passengers the first six month of 2009 compared to 2008. Total load factor was unchanged thanks to SAS grounding many airplanes this year. But SAS still loses money, and money and everyone are asking why they fail? The simples answer to this question is that SAS is a too complex airline.
SAS needs to simplify
Take a look at their fleet. As of March 2009 they have 7 different types of airplane. They have 14 different subtypes making their fleet very expensive. A result of this is that they need more pilots, more flight attendants, and more spare parts. SAS very complex fleet makes it harder to shuffle airplanes around. Because they would have to shuffle the staff around as well. A simpler fleet would make it easier to use staff more efficient. To simplify the fleet would cost a lot of money, but in SAS case it would be a worthwhile investment. SAS would be in a better position to compete.
Reply 54 illustrates how complex SAS fleet really is: http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/read.main/4994937/
What to do about Denmark?
SAS needs to make money. The unions of Denmark are for various reasons difficult to negotiate with. As a result, SAS should look at how many routes should be taken away from Denmark and flown from Norway and Sweden. Some has expressed the idea of moving long haul Asian routes to Arlanda in Sweden and the North-American routes to Oslo in Norway. This would be a drastic measure, and neither SAS nor their employees would benefit this. But as long as some employees are threatening to take down the whole airline SAS has to adapt.
What about Blue1?
Blue1 is in reality SAS Finland, but with a different Aircraft Operating Certificate (AOC). Their AOC is originally from Air Botnia, which SAS bought. Blue1’s fleet is making the SAS fleet even more complex. They add 4 new airplane types to SAS making it a total of 11 airplane types and 18 different sub types. In order to simplify SAS they should consider renaming Blue1 to SAS Finland and transferring their AOC into SAS AOC. SAS is a very strong brand, even though it would be in contrast to Finnair. Instead of fearing for Finnair stealing passengers, SAS should start a bigger offensive in Finland. It goes both ways.
How can SAS simplify?
They should replace their MD-80, MD-90, Airbus A319/A321, ATR72, Arvro RJ85, their older 737 (The classic 737) as well as F50 and Saab2000 with an order for more CRJ-900, 737-700 and 737-800. Then they should replace their A340-300 with the A330-200IGW that would improve the performance of their long haul fleet. They should also consider increasing their intercontinental fleet to about 20in a 10 year period so they can capitalize on size. In this downturn I am sure Boeing, Bombardier and Airbus would be interested in such a deal. After every plane is delivered the new fleet would be down to three different types of airplanes with 6 different sub airplanes. If SAS decides to do this they will be able to use simplify their staff, and they will improve their bottom line. The way I see it simplifying the fleet is the only way for SAS to be effective.
There is a reason why SAS Norway shows the best results. Their only jetplane is the 737 in different sizes. SAS Sweden has both the MD-80 and the 737. SAS Denmark has both the 737 and the A319/A321. The simpler fleet of SAS Norway helps making SAS Norway a better performer.
shown is from the newest SAS 737-800 at the Boeing factory, prior to delivery to SAS Norway. Picture is used with permition from Drewski2112's photostream on Flickr. Watch that and his other picture here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/smartjunco/