Now that both SAS and Norwegian have released their traffic figures from September, we can state that there is great variation in how well they manage to fill the aircraft with passengers.
SAS had more than 1 million passengers during the month of September, which is an increase of 90% compared with the previous year during the same period. Furthermore, we can state that SAS has expanded its capacity by as much as 74% more availability than last year. However, we see that SAS only manages to fill the aircraft with passengers to 54%. If we compare this with the years before the pandemic, the load factor was around 77-78% at SAS for the same month.
SAS CEO states “Travel restrictions are easing up and we instantly see higher demand. We are very pleased we transported more than a million passengers for the third consecutive month and we increase capacity accordingly. Uncertainty regarding the pandemic and future demand remains. SAS has to stay agile and flexible to be able to quickly respond to customers’ willingness to travel, “says Anko van der Werff, President & CEO of SAS.
We can compare the figures between Norwegian and SAS, which also fly to a large extent in the same market. We see that SAS succeeds in operating more flights but with a lower load factor compared with Norwegian. As Aviators.se was able to present earlier this week, Norwegian presented their traffic figures for September with a number of passengers just under 1 million but with a load factor of 72.4%. If we compare this with the low-cost airlines in Europe, we see Ryanair with a load factor of 81% in September.
Why SAS has a much lower load factor than other companies can be explained by them operating with a different business model. Operating with more departures but with the same size of aircraft as its competitors then leads to a lower load factor in comparison. One way to get up in the load factor is then to offer an aircraft with fewer seats. As previously mentioned, this is exactly what is happening, with the implementation of the Embraer E195 in the SAS route network in the near future.