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SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson (photo: SAS)

Short-haul is vital, SAS CEO tells CNN

Rickard Gustafson reveals in an interview to be aired during December how the airline is aiming to improve its short-haul flights.

CNN’s popular travel programme Business Traveller has interviewed SAS chief executive Rickard Gustafson about the carrier’s short-haul flights, to be aired at various times between December 19 and 30.

CNN Business Traveller is investigating this month the investments being made by some airlines to bring some of the long-haul luxuries to short-haul flights and enhance the passenger experience.

The programme’s Paula Newton met Gustafson at Stockholm Arlanda Airport to find out how he is overseeing upgrades being made to the airline’s short-haul fleet.

Gustafson says in the interview how SAS is building on its reputation as an airline responsible for many ‘firsts’ when it comes to aviation – the first to offer inflight entertainment in 1968, the first to introduce electronic ticketing, the first to have a separate check-in for business passengers.

He also tells the programme how SAS is aiming to improve the passenger experience further and is now working to replace one third of its aircraft with A320neos by 2020.

Business backbone
On the importance of short-haul to the business, he says: “Short-haul is absolutely the backbone of our business in terms of number of passengers. More than 90% of our passengers fly short haul. In terms of revenue, 75% of our revenues are generated through our short-haul operations.”

He also stresses how tailoring the passenger experience on short-haul flights is essential when competing with other airlines.

“You expect something else if you’re sitting in the aircraft for eight hours versus 50 minutes. A typical flight for us, short-haul, is an hour. We then fly wing-to-wing in direct competition with other traditional carriers and with all the local carriers that we have in Europe, like Norwegian, Ryanair, Wizz Air…

“If the flight is only for an hour, you cannot really have a very, very different offering on board in terms of seat, pitch or sizes. You have to compete on other things. That’s why we provide free coffee and tea and high speed wifi on board so you can actually work if you need to or if you just want to relax and watch a movie or whatever.

“We spend quite a lot on making it easy on the ground. We have invested in more fast track capacity. We have upgraded our lounges. We have developed efficient digital tools to make it very easy for customers, not just booking but also throughout their journey.”

The interview with CNN Business Traveller airs on CNN on December 19 at 11:30 and 18:30 CET, December 22 at 07:30 and 20:30 CET, December 23 at 13:30 CET, December 29 at 13:30, and on December 30 at 07:30 and 20:30.

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