SAS shouts about new Miami link; but what’s the big deal?

SAS Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has secured a lot of publicity from the launch of its new weekly winter flight between Stockholm and Miami, its fourth US route from Arlanda Airport in the Swedish capital after New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The carrier already serves Miami from Oslo and Copenhagen, so this growth was not unexpected and is actually being facilitated by the reduction of its existing Stockholm – Los Angeles route from six to five times weekly from the end of October 2017 so there is no real growth in terms of its capacity in and out of the US. So why the big interest?

Well, at a time when headlines about transatlantic travel are dominated by your biggest rival, Norwegian, then there is every reason to talk about network expansion. Buoyed mainly by low-cost arrivals, air travel between Europe and Florida rose by around 4.0% in 2016 with O&D demand between Sweden and Miami rising 14.2%.

Looking at the wider US market and more than one million passengers fly each year between Sweden and the US, with direct traffic up 22% in the past year. With the new non-stop service to Miami, passengers will now be able to choose from eleven different direct routes to seven US destinations from Stockholm Arlanda.

“Traffic to and from the US has seen fantastic growth, and there has been an average annual increase of 10% in the number of Swedes flying to Florida over the past five years. With SAS’s new direct service, passengers can now fly quickly and conveniently to Miami, and more Americans can fly non-stop to Stockholm”, says Elizabeth Axtelius, director of aviation business at Swedish airport operator, Swedavia.

A closer look at booking trends shows that SAS has seen a significant increase in bookings between Sweden and Miami since it introduced its non-stop flights to the US city from Copenhagen and Oslo in September 2016 and which has certainly provided the basis behind the addition of the Stockholm flight. The Scandinavian flag carrier had been behind British Airways with a 6.0% share of this market in 2015, but took the number one slot in 2016 after more than trebling traffic (+236.9%) and boosting its share to 17.8%.

Swedavia is putting an increased focus on developing intercontinental routes in and out of the Scandinavian country by appointing former Copenhagen Airport executive, Ole Wieth Christensen, as director of intercontinental route development in summer 2016. It has an ambitious strategy for connecting Sweden with the main airport hubs in Asia and North America to help support Swedish export companies’ market access and simultaneously boost the number of inbound travellers to Sweden.

Overall seat capacity at Stockholm Arlanda has risen by 9.0% per year since the start of the decade, increasing by 8.0% in 2015 and forecast to increase 8.3% in 2017, based on published inventories in OAG Schedules Analyser. With a strong domestic operation and wide European network, its home continent holds a 92.0% share of its overall departure capacity, but notable growth has been seen in other parts of the world during the 2010s. Since 2013, the growth in intercontinental direct connections to and from Stockholm Arlanda has been strong with a total of 17 new routes having been added, which corresponds to growth of almost 70%.