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SAS CEO expects COVID-19 vaccines to normalize the airline industry

SAS CEO expect COVID-19 vaccines to normalize the airline industry (2)

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), the flag carrier of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, saw a significant drop in the number of air passengers it accommodated in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In its December 2020 traffic report published on Tuesday, the airline said that it accommodated nearly 400,000 SAS passengers last month. The number is 18 percent higher than the number of passengers in November. 

The airline’s load factor, a metric used in the aviation industry that refers to how much of the airline’s passenger carrying capacity is used, is also up by 8 percentage units (p.u.) compared to November. 

The airline said that the increase in passengers and load factor in December is largely due to higher domestic travel demand during the holiday season. 

Traffic remains significantly lower compared to the previous year, though. SAS said that the number of air passengers dropped by 80 percent year over year. The load factor is also down by 38 p.u.

Source: SAS

Increased demand for air travel in 2021

Still, SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson is optimistic that the availability of COVID-19 vaccines will help normalize the airline industry. 

“The overall demand continues to be heavily impacted by continued restrictions, with holiday travel significantly below normal levels in December. SAS continues to adapt its capacity according to the demand, that is expected to stay at low levels throughout the winter season. However, we’re encouraged by the recent vaccine developments and initiated COVID-19 vaccination programs, providing a foundation for a future normalization of our industry,” he said

The airline industry is one of the most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic as countries worldwide limit travel to curtail the virus’s spread. The start of COVID-19 vaccinations, however, offers hope for the beleaguered industry. 

As mass vaccinations started in some countries last month, airline executives expressed hope that there will be increased demand for air travel in 2021. 

“We see our leisure business largely recovered by the end of next year. We think business travel will take a little bit longer, but that’s only about 15% to 20% of what we fly,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said in an interview on CNBC’s Closing Bell last month. “And we’ve been able to repurpose a lot of that capacity into new leisure markets.”

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