This was not quite the news that I was expecting, since 2022 SAS has been in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then they've being trying to restructure and climb out of it while maintaining their partnerships in tact.
Instead today SAS has announce they will be taking on a major shareholder, Air France-KLM. The Air France-KLM Group will be taking a $1.2 billion position with the struggling Scandinavian airline and in turn the airline will continue to operate and SkyTeam will continue with their European dominance.
Goodbye Star Alliance
I flew SAS last year during the bankruptcy and I was quite impressed with their services even while at a low point in the airline's history. The flight crew was friendly and SAS still offered many buy-on-board amenities. At the time they were a member of the Star Alliance and with my United Airlines Premier Gold I got complimentary upgrade to a spacious exit row and free checked bag.
However, now with the partnership with the Air France-KLM Group (which is a member of SkyTeam) it looks like part of the deal is that SAS needs to depart the Star Alliance and will join up with SkyTeam.
Intra-Europe flying is dominated by just a few full service airlines, I consider them to be Air France, KLM, and Lufthansa. With the new SkyTeam partnership the alliance is reaching deeper into Europe and Scandinavia with SAS, they'll be able to cover much more of northern Europe and will provide much easier access to one of my favorite cities Oslo.
I'm sure Delta Air Lines, another major holder in the SkyTeam alliance is thrilled to be stealing away another airline for the alliance from their competition. In the least year they've added Virgin Atlantic to SkyTeam and now SAS will be joining along with the prospects of possibly ITA becoming a full member. The SkyTeam alliance seems to be on an aggressive strategy to expand the alliance that neither Oneworld or Star Alliance seems to be trying for.
This would strengthen the alliance and give SkyTeam a better leg up in the European market. This is one of the alliances strongest points, I feel like they lack greatly in the Pacific market and Asian markets so it seems like they are all-in on the European market.
Thoughts on SAS
SAS has simplified their fleet since the start of bankruptcy. They have a few Airbus narrow body aircraft to include both A320neo and A321neo as well as some widebody aircraft to include the A350 and A330. Their long haul fleet has been known to have some pretty amazing catering, I have not taken a long haul SAS flight however it is on my list at some point.
The twice that I've flown with SAS the flights crews have always been friendly and personable. Seating on their aircraft is modern and inflight amenities such as wifi and food are both reasonably priced and look fresh.
I am personally excited that SAS is joining SkyTeam, as a mainly SkyTeam flyer this gives me more options for award tickets when they become available. And for those who want to connect further into Europe this opens up more options for European flyers.
This is obviously a big blow to the Star Alliance and United Airlines, however for SAS this means they can survive and come out of bankruptcy. The clear winners here are SAS and the Air France-KLM Group, probably to be renamed Air France-KLM-SAS Group after all is said and done. As long as SAS keeps up their stunning service and great long haul product this should be great all around.