June 26, 2013
Despite its frail finances and a European Commission probe of its latest restructuring plan, SAS Group is continuing its fleet renewal and expansion program with an order for 12 new Airbus widebody aircraft.
SAS ordered eight A350-900s with deliveries starting in 2018 and four A330-300 Enhanced, which will begin arriving in 2015 when the lease agreements of some of its aging A340s expire. The airline currently operates seven A340-300s with an average age of 11.6 years and four Trent 700-powered A330-300s with an average age of 10.4 years, according to Aviation Week’s commercial fleets database.
SAS says it will also upgrade the cabins of up to seven of its A330/A340 aircraft as part of the fleet modernization. The upgrade will consist of new seats throughout the cabin including fully flat seats in business class and a video on demand in-flight entertainment system throughout the entire cabin.
The Scandinavian airline will be one of the first operators of the enhanced A330-300 with increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW) capability and increased fuel capacity option. Airbus announced the enhanced A330 option last year, and the full payload range increases by around 500nm (930km) over today’s 235 ton A330-300 to 6,100nm. The A330-300’s optional fuel capacity increase comes from a center wing tank.
The airline also placed an order with Rolls Royce for Trent XWB engines for its A350s and Trent 700 engines for its new A330s. The contract includes a long term TotalCare services package.
SAS Group President & CEO Rickard Gustafson says the company opted for Airbus widebodies over Boeing’s 787s because “of SAS’s long-standing relationship with Airbus, particularly for the long-haul fleet, and because Airbus provided good delivery slots and terms.” SAS’s long-haul fleet are all Airbus, but its medium-haul fleet is mixed and includes 74 Boeing 737s and 27 MD80s. It placed an order for 30 Airbus 320NEOS in 2011.
He expects the group, which has not posted an annual profit since 2007, will have no problem financing the new aircraft.
“We believe there will be sale and leaseback opportunities, there will be export credit facilities available and so forth,” he says. “So there will be a mixture of tools to finance this pretty extensive order.”