Norway's Oslo Airport announced (12-Mar-2013) its monthly passenger numbers surpassed Copenhagen Airport for the first time in Feb-2013 to become the busiest airport in Scandinavia. During the month, Oslo Airport reported a 0.2% year-on-year decline in passenger numbers to 1.6 million and a 3.9% decline in aircraft movements to 17,559. [more - original PR - Danish]
Oslo Airport overtakes Copenhagen Airport as Scandinavia's busiest airport in Feb-2013
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Norwegian Air: longhaul-led capacity acceleration & rising fuel price may expose margin fragility
Norwegian's long haul operation has become its main growth engine. Although long haul still accounts for fewer ASKs than its short haul network, it will contribute more than half of Norwegian's incremental ASKs in 2017. Since the airline's long haul launch in 2013, Norwegian's widebody flights have enjoyed higher load factors than their short haul counterparts, and the company has broken new ground with its multi base long haul strategy outside its home market.
After Norwegian entered long haul it met a sudden drop in profitability, suffering losses in 2014. Its results have recovered since then, leading to its highest ever net profit and operating profit in absolute terms in 2016. At first sight this might indicate that Norwegian's long haul has healed its growing pains, and is maturing into more sustainable profitability.
However, there is evidence that Norwegian's profit recovery may have had more to do with lower fuel prices, helped also by tighter capacity growth in 2015. Moreover, its 2016 operating margin was below its own historic peak. With Norwegian facing rising fuel prices and accelerating its capacity growth in 2017, the robustness of its margin recovery will be tested this year.
SAS eyes lower labour cost bases outside Scandinavia as the airline's margin starts to fall again
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.