• SAS A350
    Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying
    IATA/ICAO Code:
    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier
    Copenhagen Airport, Oslo Gardermoen Airport, Stockholm Arlanda Airport
    Year Founded:
    Star Alliance
    Airline Group:
    SAS Group
    Anko van der Werff

Flag carrier airlines play an important role in representing their home country on an international level. They are often among a nation's most recognizable brands, and have close ties to the culture and heritage of the country in question. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) serves this role for three different nations, but why is this the case?

Intercontinental consolidation

SAS came into being shortly after the Second World War. The idea of a collective airline for the region first arose when three Nordic carriers joined forces to consolidate their intercontinental traffic. These airlines were:

  • Det Danske Luftfartselskab (flag carrier of Denmark, founded in 1918).
  • Det Norske Luftfartselskap (flag carrier of Norway, founded in 1927).
  • Svensk Interkontinental Lufttrafik (Swedish airline formed in 1943 by influential banker Marcus Wallenberg Jr).

The three carriers officially formed their partnership on August 1st, 1946, under the presidency of Per Norlin from Svensk Interkontinental Lufttrafik.

Just over six weeks later, the group had operated its first consolidated intercontinental service. This maiden voyage saw SAS fly from the Swedish capital of Stockholm to New York City, a route that the airline still flies to this day.

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The official merger

The Scandinavian Airlines System grew steadily in its early years, and even set a record for the heaviest single piece of transatlantic cargo carried on a scheduled passenger airliner. This saw it ferry a 1,400-pound (635 kg) electrical panel from New York to Sweden, for use by Sandvik AB. More good news was soon to follow in 1948 when Swedish flag carrier AB Aerotransport joined the party.

At this point in time, AB coordinated its European operations with the SAS network. Three years later, in 1951, the four member airlines solidified their partnership by officially merging to form the SAS Consortium.

The three-country nature of the airline's makeup is reflected in its legal name. While we passengers only see SAS or Scandinavian Airlines, the company is legally known as 'Scandinavian Airlines System Denmark-Norway-Sweden.'

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Each country had its own share in the airline, of which private investors owned 50%. Meanwhile, their governments possessed the other half. The breakdown was:

  • SAS Danmark - 28.6%.
  • SAS Norge - 28.6%.
  • SAS Sverige - 42.8%.

The carrier would go on to represent Scandinavia across the skies, proudly bringing its region's culture to international waters.

The jet age brought new prospects for the operator as it took on the Sud Aviation Caravelle and the Douglas DC-8 to handle long-haul services. 1971 also brought the Boeing 747 to its fleet, with 10 units joining the fold. However, the company was primarily fond of McDonnell Douglas models during this period.

SAS today

With Sweden having the largest stake in the airline, it is perhaps unsurprising that its present headquarters are situated in Stockholm. However, its largest hub is situated at Copenhagen-Kastrup Airport in nearby Denmark.

The Danish capital is also home to its logistics subsidiary, SAS Cargo. SAS's other major hubs are at Stockholm Arlanda and Oslo Gardermoen. Meanwhile, it also has smaller bases in Bergen, Gothenburg, Stavanger, and Trondheim.

It has been a busy year for SAS. In March, it signed a sale and leaseback with Aviation Capital Group for 10 Airbus A320neos as it sought ways to help manage financial constraints. The airline filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2022 and is keen to reduce annual costs by $800 million amid its SAS FORWARD transformation plan. However, there is some way to go as the carrier sought a 100-day extension on its protection. Thus, it will remain in its current situation until January 2024.

In terms of SAS's current fleet, ch-aviation.com reports that the carrier presently has 155 aircraft. SAS's present intercontinental routes see service from the Airbus A330 and A350. Overall, SAS is a fascinating airline with a rich history that strongly connects the rest of the world with the wonders of Scandinavia.

Did you know that SAS was the flag carrier of three countries? Have you ever flown with the airline? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Source: ch-aviation.com