Airline SAS losses widen as pandemic curbs

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Swedish-Danish airline SAS said on Thursday it still expected demand to return to more normalized levels next year after it reported a larger first-quarter loss due to the withering impact on air travel from the pandemic.

The spread of COVID-19 and related restrictions have seen air travel collapse over the past year, plunging the global airline industry into crisis and leaving carriers scrambling to secure funds to weather the slump.

SAS completed a capital raise in late 2020 after a year of deep losses and is preparing for more of the same in 2021 although the roll-out of vaccines could provide some relief in the second half of the year.

“The development of vaccines and vaccination programs provide hope that restrictions will ease and that we will see an increase in travel toward summer 2021,” SAS said in a statement.

It added however that demand would most likely remain “highly limited” in the foreseeable future, and reach more normalized levels only in 2022.

“SAS is monitoring global vaccination developments closely in order to be ready to quickly increase capacity when conditions permit,” Chief Executive Rickard Gustafson said.

Pretax losses in the November-January quarter deepened to 1.94 billion crowns ($234.7 million) from a year-earlier 1.09 billion loss as sales slumped to 2.28 billion from 9.71 billion.

The company, which is seeking a new CEO after Gustafson unexpectedly announced his resignation in January to take the helm at bearings maker SKF, said it planned to open 180 direct routes for the summer, mainly within Scandinavia and Europe, provided that restrictions allowed for travel.

SAS shares were down 1.5% in early trade.

Main Photo: Scandinavian airline SAS MD-80 and Boeing 737 aircrafts parked at the gates at terminal 4 at Arlanda Airport north of Stockholm, Sweden. EPA/JOHAN NILSSON / SCANPIX

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