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SAS Scandinavian Airlines leaves Bangkok

It is more than a symbol. This Monday, SAS will have its last flight from Bangkok to Copenhagen shutting a historical connection that was served for over 60 years. SAS farewell will however soon be replaced in Bangkok by another Scandinavian carrier, Norwegian Airlines.

BANGKOK- Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) halts its flights to Bangkok this Monday, ending 64 years of service linking the Nordic countries and Thailand. SAS vanishing from Bangkok airport’s apron carries a lot of symbolic significance. SAS started to fly to Bangkok back to 1949, one of the first European carriers to serve the Thai capital. Ten years later, SAS was associated into a joint venture with TAC, Thai Airways Company, to create a new international airline in Thailand. Launched in 1960, Thai International was equipped with DC6 aircraft from SAS with the planes bearing the same livery than SAS. The partnership between Thai International and SAS lasted until 1977.

In its heydays, in the middle of the 2000s, SAS was operating up to two daily flights during the winter season, linking Bangkok to both Copenhagen and Stockholm. During the winter season 2012/13, SAS continued to assure a daily non-stop frequency between Bangkok and Copenhagen in an Airbus A340-300 with a three-class product (Economy, Economy Premium and Business Class) offering 245 seats per day.

Despite excellent load factors, the route has been at constant losses due to the airline’s high cost structures. The SAS management made then the decision to stop serving Southeast Asia. The carrier is now embarked into a restructuring plan called “4Excellence Next Generation – the future”, drawn up to enable SAS to make a profit once again by dramatically reducing its costs through a simpler and more flexible structure. 

This offensive plan has been fully implemented since 2012 and is due to continue until 2014 with the target of reducing significantly the cost per available seat kilometre (ASK). Instead of flying with its own aircraft to Singapore and Bangkok, SAS signed code-share agreements with both Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways International.

Effective April 8, Scandinavian Airlines and Thai Airways International are expanding their present code-share agreement to also cover Stockholm – Bangkok vv, Oslo – Bangkok vv and Copenhagen – Bangkok and return. This comes in addition to the present code-share destinations on Thai’s regional destinations in Asia and SAS’ Scandinavian and European destinations.
“We are very pleased that we are now able to take the next step in our cooperation together with Thai Airways. Bangkok and Thailand is a very important destination both for Scandinavian business and leisure travelers. We now look forward to offer our customers more and better options to reach Bangkok from all of Scandinavia,” declared Rickard Gustafson, President and CEO, SAS.

The new code-share agreement makes it possible for SAS to offer its customer nonstop flights from Scandinavia to Bangkok and for SAS and Thai to further strengthen their customer offer and market position in Scandinavia.

As part of the decision, SAS closed its airport office at Suvarnabhumi International Airport while retaining a small structure in town with an off-line office. 

Thai Airways International offers daily services to Copenhagen and Stockholm as well as five weekly flights to Oslo. From July 1 to Aug 18, the Thai carrier will add two additional flights per week on Bangkok-Copenhagen.

The reduction in service between Thailand and Scandinavia will not last for too long. Scandinavian budget carrier Norwegian is indeed moving into the seat left vacant by SAS. After expanding strongly its European network, Norwegian is indeed moving into the long haul business by launching flights with two Airbus A340 –until it can get its delayed Boeing 787 Dreamliner. New York and Florida in the USA but also Bangkok are the first intercontinental destinations for the Oslo-based carrier.

Oslo – Bangkok three times a week
From June 20, Norwegian will fly three times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, between Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) and Bangkok . Starting June 23, Norwegian will fly thrice a week, on Monday, Wednesdays and Saturdays, between Oslo International Airport in Gardermoen (OSL) to Bangkok (BKK). The carrier will offer both an economy and a Premium Economy  Class offering a comfortable seat with a pitch of 155 cm. 

Once the Boeing 787 Dreamline comes into service, Norwegian will offer in economy a 3-3-3 configuration and a 2-3-2 configuration for its Premium Economy. Pitch in the Premium Economy will then be dramatically reduced to 117 cm (Norwegian programmed configuration for the B787) while it will remained constant at 79 cm in Economy.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.

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