SAS resumes flights to China after eight-month coronavirus hiatus

Almost eight months and an ongoing global pandemic after suspending services, direct SAS flights to Shanghai are set to resume on September 29th, the company has confirmed following approval from Chinese authorities.

SAS resumes flights to China after eight-month coronavirus hiatus
A SAS flight over Russia in 2017. Photo: Vibeke Toft/Ritzau Scanpix

Scandinavian airline SAS suspended flights to China on January 31st due to fears that the novel coronavirus could spread outside of the Asian country.

“With the reopening of the route, SAS is aiming to meet demand for business travel and air freight services between Scandinavia and China,” the company said in a statement.

Due to ongoing uncertainty regarding restrictions and potential changes in travel advice, SAS is offering travellers the option to change a planned journey or ticket for a SAS Travel Voucher up to 16 days prior to departure. This applies to all international travel until January 15th.

READ ALSO: SAS airline vows to refund passengers after criticism from Swedish consumer agency

While the January 31st suspension applied to direct flights to both Shanghai and Beijing, the service to the Chinese capital is still awaiting approval and is not expected to resume until the end of October.

SAS stockholders earlier this week approved a rescue package providing billions of kroner in relief to the airline, which is struggling due to the economic impact of the pandemic.

The package, worth 8.5 million Danish kroner, is primarily funded by the Danish and Swedish states.

At the time of writing, SAS is currently operating services to 75 destinations. Prior to the pandemic, the airline served around 125 destinations from Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen.

August 2020 saw 74 percent fewer passengers on SAS flights compared to the same month in 2019.



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‘We agree to disagree’: Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

By lunchtime on Friday, talks between the Scandinavian airline SAS and unions representing striking pilots were still stuck on "difficult issues".

'We agree to disagree': Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

“We agree that we disagree,” Roger Klokset, from the Norwegian pilots’ union, said at lunchtime outside the headquarters of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in Stockholm, where talks are taking place. “We are still working to find a solution, and so long as there is still some point in continuing negotiations, we will do that.” 

Mats Ruland, a mediator for the Norwegian government, said that there were “still several difficult issues which need to be solved”. 

At 1pm on Friday, the two sides took a short break from the talks for lunch, after starting at 9am. On Thursday, they negotiated for 15 hours, breaking off at 1am on Friday morning. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on the SAS plane strike?

Marianne Hernæs, SAS’s negotiator on Friday told journalists she was tired after sitting at the negotiating table long into the night. 

“We need to find a model where we can meet in the middle and which can ensure that we pull in the income that we are dependent on,” she said. 

Klokset said that there was “a good atmosphere” in the talks, and that the unions were sticking together to represent their members.

“I think we’ve been extremely flexible so far. It’s ‘out of this world’,’ said Henrik Thyregod, with the Danish pilots’ union. 

“This could have been solved back in December if SAS had not made unreasonable demands on the pilots,” Klokset added. 

The strike, which is now in its 12th day, has cost SAS up to 130m kronor a day, with 2,550 flights cancelled by Thursday, affecting 270,000 passengers.