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Analysis: What Does New SAS Ownership Mean for Copenhagen

Copenhagen Airport will see some changes to its route map as SAS exits Chapter 11 with new owners including Air France-KLM.

An SAS A320 in Oslo. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

SAS has recently received court approval to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a month after the news of Air France-KLM’s investment in SAS which sees the group acquiring a 19.9% stake in the airline. A consortium, which includes Air France-KLM, will take ownership of the restructuring company after entering into Chapter 11 in July 2022.

Being the Scandinavian flag carrier, SAS currently operates a network that centers around Copenhagen and with significant operations in Oslo and Stockholm. The vast majority of their flights originate from one of the three Scandinavian capitals. 

The move is more than a financial investment for Air France-KLM. We are already seeing early signs of deeper cooperation and potential moves to integrate SAS into the group’s operation, from plans to merge frequent flyer programs to network adjustments, with SAS ditching Washington Dulles for Minneapolis, a SkyTeam hub. 

SAS brand new Airbus A350XWB awaiting it’s first scheduled departure from Chicago O’Hare (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ben Suskind)

Copenhagen Over Oslo and Stockholm 

There are several reasons to believe that Copenhagen will beat Oslo and Stockholm and play a significant role in the future of SAS and Air France-KLM. First, the new ownership structure will see the Danish state owning 25.8 percent of the airline. The Swedish state will no longer have a share and Norway sold its share years ago.

Second, the airline already has most of its transcontinental network flying out of Copenhagen and it is the city with the best connections. Third, Copenhagen has the largest demand. Based on passenger numbers from 2019, Copenhagen outperformed its neighbors with over 30 million passengers. 

The optimism is shared by Copenhagen Airport during a recent interview with the airport’s Senior Director of Route Development, Morten Mortensen. 

Conversation with Copenhagen Airport 

Here is a snapshot of our conversation with Copenhagen Airport (CPH) at the Routes 2023 conference in Istanbul. 

On the recovery of Copenhagen:

  • It is on track to recover back to the pre-pandemic level of 29 million passengers expected in 2024, with leisure demand pushing the recovery. 
  • There are still concerns about Russian airspace closure, which puts CPH at a disadvantage. Services to the Greater China area went from 23 weekly in 2019 to 6 weekly flights in 2023. 

On the new SAS ownership and alliance switch, several points were made: 

  • Copenhagen Airport welcomes the news that SAS is coming out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy
  • The airport also recognized that some services and routes can be retracted or cancelled as a result of the new ownership and possible shift in alliance
  • The move will support the growth of Air France-KLM in the Nordic region, with Schiphol unable to grow and Paris at capacity, Copenhagen will play a central role in serving the Nordic region, which has been historically been an important market for the group with KLM’s connections from Amsterdam. 
  • From a network perspective, a single hub will make more sense for SAS as compared to the three hubs it has now. 

AirlineGeeks asked if CPH is worried that it might lose some services. Mortensen said: 

  • With Norwegian no longer serving the market, more airlines will come to CPH. The new American Airlines service is a good example. There is also a relocation of SAS aircraft into North America from Asia and if Russian Airspace reopens, North American routes can be taken over by U.S. carriers 
  • Overall, the connectivity at CPH will not be affected and if airlines leave they will likely be replaced. 

When asked about some of the target services, several gaps in the market were identified. “We see potentials in the Indian market and we do not have service to Mumbai, which is underserved,” said Mortensen. 

Major Network Shakeup Expected  

While Copenhagen is set to play an important role in SAS’ future and serving the region as a mid-sized hub, the airport’s network is expected to experience some major changes that come with SAS’ change of alliance. This will come from both SAS itself and foreign airlines. 

At the moment, Copenhagen is well-served by Star Alliance carriers, including Air Canada, Air China, Ethiopian, Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, and the list goes on. Many airlines benefit from the airport being a SAS hub and enjoy onward connections to the region. For example, Singapore Airlines has a decade-old joint venture with SAS, and codeshare agreements are in place between SAS and its Star Alliance partners. 

SAS’ own network coordinates with Star Alliance hubs too, at least before the injection. In the U.S., it flies to United hubs at Chicago, Newark, San Francisco, and Washington Dulles, though it was not a part of the transatlantic joint venture with Lufthansa and United. 

In essence, changes in SAS’s strategic partners will likely result in changes in the hubs to which CPH connects but the connectivity will likely not be affected, The future will also depend on the direction that SAS eventually takes and its role in Air France-KLM. 

Anthony Bang An


  • Anthony Bang An

    Anthony is an airline enthusiast who also loves traveling. He grew up around the world from St. Louis to Singapore and now lives in Amsterdam. He loves long-haul flying and finds peace in the sound of engine cruising. Fresh out of high school, he aspires to be working in the aviation industry and share his passion for the sky. 

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