Scandinavian Airlines-SAS issued this quarterly report:
NOVEMBER 2020–JANUARY 2021
SIGNIFICANT EVENTS DURING THE QUARTER
COMMENTS BY THE CEO
The pandemic continues to have a severe negative impact on the whole aviation industry. An increase in number of cases has led to more stringent travel restrictions, with a consequent reduction in demand during the quarter and stalled recovery for the entire travel industry. However, the development of vaccines and vaccination programs provide hope that restrictions will ease and that we will see an increase in travel toward summer 2021.
QUARTERLY EARNINGS NEGATIVELY IMPACTED BY THE PANDEMIC
The quarter was marked by increased cases and growing concern for new mutations of the coronavirus, resulting in even more stringent travel restrictions across the world. In general, restrictions are currently more stringent than they were in spring 2020.
The prevailing circumstances mean that SAS is continually forced to adapt capacity and departures to meet weak and volatile demand. Capacity for the quarter declined 75% year-on-year and 29% compared with the previous quarter. Passenger numbers were down 5.3 million year-on-year and down 900,000 compared to the previous quarter.
The negative traffic trend has resulted in revenue of only SEK 2.3 billion, a year-on-year decline of SEK 7.4 billion. At the same time, SAS has succeeded in offsetting the majority of the revenue loss by reducing costs, which are almost 60% lower year-on-year. However, the cost savings have not fully compensated for the loss of revenue, and earnings for the quarter amounted to SEK -1.9 billion, which is down SEK 0.8 billion compared with last year.
SAS’ ability to manage liquidity is crucial for the company’s ability to safely navigate the ongoing pandemic, and liquidity amounted to SEK 4.7 billion at the end of the quarter. As planned, SAS has pulled together to ensure that customers are reimbursed for canceled travel, which amounted to SEK 2.1 billion during the quarter. Moreover, we have also had one-time disbursements amounting to around SEK 0.7 billion pertaining to postponed payments from 2020 and restructuring initiatives. To strenghten liquidity SAS utilized a credit facility of NOK 1.5 billion, which is entirely guaranteed by the Norwegian Export Credit Guarantee Agency (GIEK), during our seasonally weakest period.
ADAPTED CUSTOMER OFFERING BASED ON PREVAILING CIRCUMSTANCES
We have noted a pent-up need to travel moving forward, and as vaccinations gain global momentum, it should be possible to ease the current travel restrictions thus making it possible to travel again. Pending this, SAS is preparing to reopen 180 direct routes for the summer, mainly within Scandinavia and Europe, provided that the prevailing travel restrictions will allow people to travel.
To reduce uncertainty about booking, SAS has introduced even more flexible ticket rules and rebooking alternatives. As always, no restrictions apply for rebooking or cancelling our Plus tickets. In addition, our other international tickets can now also be rebooked free of charge up to three days prior to departure. If travelers prefer to cancel they can choose to receive a SAS Travel Voucher which is valid as payment on all SAS destinations. For domestic journeys in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, a SAS Go Flex ticket is now available, which allows rebooking up to one hour before departure at no additional cost. For customers who choose to pay for their tickets with EuroBonus points, free cancellation applies up to 24 hours before departure as usual. Moreover, SAS is now in-phase with refunding customers for canceled journeys, which means that the company is once again meeting the seven-day refund requirement period for canceled flights, which provides our customers with an extra element of security. Following the implementation of these initiatives, we have also conducted a number of well-received campaigns with increased bookings mainly for the summer and autumn, albeit from low levels compared to the norm for this time of year.
Air freight has filled an important function during the pandemic and has also developed to an increasingly important supplement to lost passenger revenue, particularly in terms of SAS’ intercontinental flights. Many corporate customers are also in great need of securing important logistics flows for their operations in which SAS actively participates. For example, SAS Cargo established air bridges during the quarter within Europe and to South America for components for two major industrial companies.
In January, SAS signed an agreement with Apollo to extend their existing partnership for three years, with the possibility of extension by an additional two years. The agreement concerns charter traffic from Denmark, Norway and Sweden to destinations within Europe, corresponding to a value of approximately SEK 3.4 billion in the first three years.
CONTINUED WORK WITH RESTRUCTURING OPERATIONS
SAS has implemented a number of measures during the quarter to dimension operations to the prevailing demand and to position the company for the expected market conditions following the pandemic.
Continual adjustment and adaptation of the traffic program has reduced SAS’ variable costs by over 70%. The major redundancy process corresponding to approximately 5,000 positions was completed, while SAS continues to use temporary lay-offs throughout Scandinavia. These unfortunate, but necessary measures have had a substantial impact and reduced personnel expenses almost 45% year-on-year.
To further strengthen SAS’ ability to adapt seasonally and increase productivity and long-term competitiveness, talks are continuing with all labor unions within the SAS Group. New agreements have been signed for some of our Norwegian personnel during the quarter, and agreements have also been made concerning frozen salary levels for several employee groups.
Additionally, SAS has renegotiated a large number of supplier agreements, resulting in postponed payments of almost SEK 700 million in 2021, further strengthening SAS’ financial preparedness.
As previously announced, SAS has postponed deliveries of new aircraft from Airbus and accelerated the phase-out of older and less fuel-efficient aircraft, thereby strengthening our short- and long-term liquidity. In the last three months, we have phased out or sold five Boeing 737 aircraft and simultaneously taken delivery of three new Airbus A320neo aircraft.
The accelerated transition to new, fuel-efficient aircraft also means that we are reducing our emissions and advancing toward our environmental goals. Over the last twelve months, total carbon emissions have declined 74%. The majority of this decline is related to reduced traffic, but also the use of new, more fuel-efficient aircraft, which has contributed 2.1 percentage points. Moreover, we recently expanded our future delivery undertaking with Gevo, to secure a minimum of 20% of our planned consumption of sustainable aviation fuel in 2025.
A high vaccination rate is the most decisive factor for the authorities’ willingness to ease travel restrictions and thus allow for the recovery of the airline industry. As such, SAS is monitoring global vaccination developments closely in order to be ready to quickly increase capacity when conditions permit. However, demand is most likely to remain highly limited in the foreseeable future, but we expect demand to reach more normalized levels in 2022.
The passenger mix will have an increased share of leisure travelers in the future, which places even greater requirements on flexibility and seasonal adaptations to our operations. Through its customer offering, fleet renewal, sustainability work and operational model, SAS is well-positioned for the market that will be formed following the pandemic. Thanks to our operational model and the associated production units within this model that SAS has developed in the last few years, SAS has a strong competitive position for the future. The model enables SAS to offer a complete network and a timetable adapted to Scandinavian requirements for business, leisure, and regional destinations through access to flexible production resources fit for purpose.
I would like to express my gratitude once more to all of my colleagues at SAS for their commitment and hard work during this difficult time. I would also like to thank our customers for the confidence they show in us as Scandinavia’s leading airline. We are all looking forward to soon having the pleasure of welcoming our travelers on board!
President and CEO, Stockholm, February 25, 2021