A harsh truth for SAS is that improvements to its network and product, and its focus on Scandinavia's frequent travellers, have not isolated it from unit revenue weakness. Moreover, in spite of very creditable progress with unit cost reduction, it still has a high cost base. In FY2016 its operating margin started to turn down again. In addition to further targeted cost savings SAS is now considering further, more radical, changes to its production model.
In particular, it is assessing whether or not to establish operations outside Scandinavia for some of its European traffic. The European airline market includes a fast-growing and price-sensitive leisure segment, where SAS tries to compete against much lower cost operators that are not weighed down by Scandinavia's very high labour costs.
Even Scandinavia's most significant LCC, Norwegian, has established bases in the UK and Spain, and many other LCC competitors have bases across the continent. Indeed, it would seem that SAS, once an opponent of Norwegian's plans to use Ireland as a trans-Atlantic base in search of lower labour costs, has borrowed a page from its rival's book on how to re-write airline strategy.
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