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SAS Bombardier CRJ-900LR pictured in 2016 (photo: © Thorbjørn Brunander Sund,

SAS passes 30mn passengers a year

For the first time, the airline has flown more than 30 million passengers in a financial year. But it’s taken almost 20 years to grow from 22 million.

For the first time ever, SAS has flown more than 30 million passengers in a financial year. But it has taken almost 20 years to grow from 22 million to 30 million.

Back in 1999, the Scandinavian airline transported 22 million passengers, making it one of Europe’s major airlines. Many challenging years followed after that, where the net growth in passenger numbers was relatively weak compared to the overall market.

But in recent years it has once again gained a well-developed engine for growth, and by October 31 had seen out the latest financial year by transporting 30.08 million passengers.

The year before, it was almost there, with 29.99 million passengers carried in the 2016-17 financial year. Now it has just managed to get on the other side of the 30 million mark.

At SAS, the company’s management is delighted with the new milestone in its 72-year history.

“It is a passenger record that we all in SAS can be proud of, not least thanks to our colleagues who meet our customers every day,” Lars Sandahl Sørensen, the airline’s executive vice president, tells

“We work on all plans in the organisation to ensure our customers want to keep flying with us while new passengers arrive. We have an attractive product, for example new aircraft that emit less fuel, many exciting destinations on the programme and high-speed WiFi, which have been received very well by the passengers.”

Near-death experience
That SAS could carry more than 30 million passengers in a year was believed by few in the autumn of 2012. Six years ago, on November 19, SAS was subjected to a near-death experience with a likely bankruptcy threatening its existence.

“If we had not got it fixed, SAS would not be here today. Many thought it was crazy what the board said and did in 2012. Had we not found a solution that weekend, SAS would have been declared bankrupt on the Monday,” former chairman Fritz Schur recalled earlier this year before leaving the board after 17 years’ work.

That it took SAS almost 19 years to reach from 22 million to 30 million may cause many to wonder why, given that Norwegian grew from 5.1 million passengers in 2006 to 33.1 million by 2017.

But at SAS it is naturally connected with the many savings that have inhibited growth over long periods. In addition, SAS has been selling off wholly or partly owned subsidiaries, some of which had contributed to the passenger stats, in an attempt to streamline the business. During the last 10 years it has divested Blue1, Cimber, Spanair and Widerøe, as well as minority interests in airBaltic, BMI, Estonian Air and Skyways.

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