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Briefs: SAS fights to survive; Airberlin overhauls U.S. routes

In news of international airlines, unions at Scandinavian Airlines have agreed to massive cutbacks as the company struggles to survive; Airberlin will revamap U.S. routes to maximize Oneworld connections with American; Skyteam adds its 19th member carrier; and one fast-growing airline now claims to have the world’s largest network in terms of countries served.

  • Pilots, cabin crew and six other labor unions at SAS Group, the parent of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), have signed on to a new survival plan adopted by the company’s board. The airline is looking to cut costs by some $887 million, in part by eliminating 6,000 jobs from its workforce of 15,000. “This truly is our final call if there is to be an SAS in the future,” said CEO Rickard Gustafson. The company said the union pacts must be signed if banks and the airline’s government owners are to extend more credit to SAS, which has been losing money for the past five years. The SAS news comes just two weeks after Spain’s Iberia Airlines also announced massive layoffs as part of a survival plan.

  • Airberlin announced plans to overhaul its U.S. routes next summer as part of a plan to maximize synergies with its Oneworld alliance partner, American Airlines. Airberlin had already announced it will begin new non-stop service between Berlin and AA’s Chicago O’Hare hub starting in March 2013. In addition, the company now says it will increase New York JFK-Dusseldorf non-stops from the current seven a week to 10. Starting in May, service to American’s Miami hub will increase from five to seven flights a week from Dusseldorf, and three to five flights a week from Berlin. Airberlin’s Dusseldorf-Los Angeles schedule will grow from three flights a week to four, while LAX-Berlin service will remain at three flights a week, optimized to provide better connections to Russia and Scandinavia. The airline will terminate its seasonal service to Dusseldorf from Las Vegas, San Francisco and Vancouver.

  • The SkyTeam global alliance, which includes Delta and Air France KLM among others, has added China’s sixth-largest airline as its 19th member and its fourth in China. The carrier is Xiamen Airlines, based in the city of Xiamen. The airline flies to 50 cities in China and Asia, and has plans to expand to North America and Europe as it adds 787s to its fleet.

  • Trivia question: Which airline flies to more countries than any other? Turkish Airlines says the answer is … Turkish Airlines. The company said its recent growth spurt—it added 30 new routes just in 2012—means that it now flies to 205 destinations in 90 countries, “more than any other airline in the world.” The airline recently added its 200th aircraft, and has plans to grow its fleet to 300 planes, including a recent order for 15 new Airbus A330-300s that will be delivered between 2014 and 2016.

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