On Wednesday morning, SAS’s first regular direct flight to the United States since the pandemic occurred.
– It is very fun to see that the gate is full of people, says pilot Svein Wassend from the right seat in the brand new cockpit of SAS ‘first Airbus 350, and takes a look up at gate F18 at Gardermoen.
Together with colleague Per-Anders Noren, he will carry around 220 traveling passengers to Newark Liberty International Airport this morning.
– It’s good to be here, Noren states.
The two face the snout towards the autumn sun at 11.38, and are set to land in the USA around 19 Norwegian time.
Until now, it has only been the exception for diplomats, journalists and people with close relatives in the United States. From Monday, however, it has been possible for vaccinated Norwegians to travel freely into the United States, after the country eased border restrictions.
Therefore, SAS opens more departures to the country to take away the demand, NTB wrote on Wednesday morning. SK 907 is the first.
Now it will be up to 100 flying a week in the future.
– Stunned without people
Purser Anne Storm Graver is among those who are really looking forward to the trip.
Although the first US flight technically took off this summer, it was only fully loaded with salmon, and barely had passengers on board due to the entry restrictions, she says.
– It has been shocking to fly with so few people on board. We always have salmon, but it also gets nice with people, she says and happily shows off the sold-out business department in the cabin.
She has worked on this plane four times in the past, but admits that it is a moment to be able to wish for so many passengers on board.
– We are proud of this, says Graver.
The SAS manager: – We still face challenges
Large and important marked
The departure was so symbolic for the airline that also Norwegian manager Kjetil Håbjørg in SAS took the trip down to gate F18 on Wednesday. He instantly describes it like this:
– It’s great, it’s great. Finally, it opens up to the United States, which is a very important brand for us. We see around Christmas and New Year that we have a great demand to get to the United States. And we also see that we have both passengers and good freight rates there, says Håbjørg.
He emphasizes that the US flight generates many seat kilometers and that it will be an important brand for SAS in the future.
– The USA is an important important brand for us and our customers, and it is important that we get important agreements and meet family and friends, so we are very happy about this, he says.
On Wednesday, the news also came that SAS will open more departures to the USA before Christmas, with up to 100 times a week in the future.
From November, there will be departures a week from Oslo to New York, and one from Oslo to Miami. If you accept a stopover on the road, it will be easier for Norwegians to get across the Atlantic, writes NTB.
Copenhagen and Stockholm will also have more departures.
– It comes because demand is increasing, and we respond of course when we see it. Around Christmas and New Year, we have great demand, especially for the USA, so we are increasing, says Håbjørg to E24.
Check-in: SAS Connect can become an independent concept
– Excited about whether it lasts
At the end of October, SAS’s chief executive Anko van der Werff stated Finans.dk that the airline is now fighting for survival. When asked about Håbjørg now, you look more positively at the future outlook, but we still have reservations.
– If clearly we manage to fill the planes with both passengers and freight, then that is what looks positive. But this is just part of our business. Long-distance is important, but we have a larger network in «shorthaul» and domestic, and there we see that covid cases are now increasing and that the development is somewhat different, which makes us somewhat more worried, he says.
SAS has repeatedly attracted business travelers, and a segment the airline has had large revenues from over the years, which must be adapted to a new everyday life, for the worse for aviation.
Although they now see more business travelers in their systems, SAS is unsure whether they last.
– We are used to seeing if it lasts or not. But we still do not believe that the market will return as it has been, says Håbjørg.
The next 6 months will be very important for the next years.