SAS Scandinavian Airlines (SK, Copenhagen Kastrup) plans to launch its two new brands, SAS Connect and SAS Link, in the first quarter of 2022, Chief Executive Anko van der Werff said during the carrier's annual earnings call.

"We're starting operations of SAS Connect out of Copenhagen Kastrup in early 2022 and are currently evaluating possibilities to expand SAS Connect to open additional bases at Stockholm Arlanda and Oslo Gardermoen during the year. Operations of SAS Link are also planned starting beginning of 2022 out of the crew base in Copenhagen," he said.

SAS Connect will operate Airbus narrowbodies and will be based on the existing Air Operator's Certificate of SAS Scandinavian Airlines Ireland (SL, London Heathrow) which operates nine A320-200Ns. SAS has orders for another thirty-five A320-200Ns (with thirteen due to deliver by the end of October 2022, a further twelve by October 2023, and the remainder through October 2025). It did not confirm how many of them would be operated by SAS Connect - currently, the majority of SAS's A320neo aircraft, namely 36 units, are operated by the Scandinavian mainline. It also did not comment on whether the airline was planning to transfer any of the A320neo from the Scandinavian to the Irish AOC.

The deliveries of added A320neo will allow SAS to retire all of its remaining B737s with van der Werff noting that by the end of 2022, "pretty much all of them will be gone". The ch-aviation fleets advanced module shows that the airline currently operates thirteen B737-700s and thirteen B737-800s, all of them on the Scandinavian AOC. The slight majority of the B737s is owned by SAS, while six units of each type are dry-leased.

In turn, SAS Link will be an entirely new segment given it will use E195 regional jets. The airline recently signed a Letter of Intent to add an unspecified, but "small", number of these aircraft as an interim solution pending an order for new-generation regional jets. SAS did not disclose how many E195s it would take, nor when it plans to place an order for SAS Link's target type.

The two new brands will operate flights under the SAS code with van der Werff stressing that for customers, there should be no discernible difference in booking or travel.

"We do not intend at this stage to commercialize them differently, that it's all under the SAS brand. That's the same, for instance, what you see now on the external platforms with the wet leases... The operating model will provide further flexibility while reducing complexity and increasing accountability in each independent platform with an increased cost and efficiency focus," he explained.

He likened the set-up to that of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines/KLM cityhopper or Iberia/Iberia Express. The SAS Link platform will be independent of regional operations outsourced to third-party providers; SAS plans to continue wet-leasing regional turboprops and smaller regional jets.

The Scandinavian carrier reported a SEK6.5 billion (USD721 million) net loss for the financial year November 2020-October 2021.