After 63 years Scandinavia’s SAS will no longer serve Bangkok year-round after April 7 next year.
The move comes as a shock seeing as SAS has enjoyed a close relationship with Thailand ever since it began serving Bangkok way back in 1949. Indeed Bangkok was SAS’ first ever destination in the Far East.
SAS held a financial stake and also mentored Thai Airways in its early days. Readers with long memories will recall that the Thai airline used a version of the SAS livery until well into the 1970s.
Why will SAS withdraw from Bangkok during the summer months?
There are several reasons:
- SAS wishes to make more profitable use of its long distance fleet at this time of year.
- The Scandinavian airline faces high labour and social costs. It is finding it increasingly difficult to compete with carriers such as Thai Airways and the rising Gulf carriers who enjoy lower costs.
- Copenhagen acts as a hub for SAS’ long-haul routes so a good number of SAS passengers originate from Oslo and Stockholm. But Thai Airways is now flying non-stop to Bangkok from all these three Scandinavian cities so Norwegian and Swedish customers find it more convenient not having to change planes.
- The Gulf carriers have begun moving into Scandinavia. Emirates has begun flying out of Copenhagen while Qatar now operates out of Oslo and Stockholm and has announced its intention to serve the Finnish capital of Helsinki.
The increasing competition from Gulf carriers on routes linking Europe with South East Asia is a problem which other European carriers are facing right now.
The Gulf carriers hold ‘pricing power’ which makes it difficult for the Europeans to charge economical prices.
As a result we saw earlier this summer that Air France took the decision to downgrade its Paris-Bangkok route from a business to a leisure service. Air Berlin pulled out of Bangkok in favour of handing over its passengers to Gulf carrier Etihad at Abu Dhabi for the final leg to Thailand. While we recently reported that Lufthansa is now examining the future of its Bangkok route.
SAS currently serves Bangkok with an A340-300. This aircraft will be switched to a new Copenhagen to San Francisco service which starts on April 8.
The carrier plans to restart Bangkok as a seasonal route with effect from winter 2013. In the meantime SAS will refer prospective passengers to its Star Alliance partners.
For more information visit flysas.com.
Report by Alex McWhirter