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SAS load factor falls dramatically

Scandinavian carrier reports a fall in January in both passenger numbers and load factor.

Load factor on SAS’s flights fell dramatically in January to 63.9%, despite the fact that it had already adjusted its overall capacity. The picture contrasts with the rosy results just reported for the month by Finnair.

The airline had already taken into consideration that January was seasonally a weak month, cutting its capacity by 1% and reducing the number of flights by 4%.

Nevertheless, it is reporting a decrease for the month in both passenger numbers and load factor. In total, 1.87 million passengers flew SAS in January, of whom 1.83 million were on scheduled flights, the rest were on charter flights.

This was an overall drop of 5.5% compared to the same month last year. Load factor tumbled 5.1 percentage points to 63.9% on the scheduled flights.

“We continue to adjust production to seasonal changes in demand in accordance with our conversion work,” said SAS Group CEO Rickard Gustafson about the traffic figures.

“This means that in January, which is typically the low season, we reduced production. Traffic has evolved in line with our expectations over the past three months, with the exception of our unit revenue and returns, which had a slightly stronger development.”

Not a disaster
Equity research manager Jacob Pedersen from the Danish full-service bank Sydbank tells that a wider traffic trend is behind the figures.

“In January 2017, SAS continued to have a positive effect from the 70th birthday campaign in autumn 2016, with a major fall in ticket prices, and that’s what you can see now. Traffic figures are down, but not a disaster,” he says.

On the intercontinental routes, capacity fell by 2.1%, but passenger traffic on these routes fell by 11.3%. Also European traffic declined more than capacity changes, with the exception of the Swedish market, where traffic on European routes grew by 3%.

Capacity on SAS’s domestic routes increased by 1.3%, notably on the route between Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands. Yet traffic declined by 4.2%, especially in the Swedish market.

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