New fares to launch SAS revival

On Tuesday SVD announced SAS's latest ingenious plan to save themselves from the bulging scrapyard of failed airlines: marginally cheaper, flexible tickets for the business traveller.

Economy Flex, costing up to 25% less than a Business Class ticket, will apparently offer the business flyer with an eye for a supposed bargain a decent meal and a bit more space, the paper seemed to be telling us.

Then on Thursday, Aftonbladet trumpeted another insipid move on the part of the struggling airline: “SAS to Implement Third Class Travel”.

“Right at the back of the plane,” the paper declared, “you’ll get no service. But your ticket will be 25% cheaper!”

Anders Ehrling, Managing Director of Scandinavian Airlines Sverige assured the paper. “I’m proud of this move. We’re sinking our costs step by step, striving to be even more competitive.”

Sterling stuff from SAS’s Swedish management, but for all Ehrling’s fighting talk, he failed to mention the fact that the once successful airline has been playing catch-up with the bargain bucket airlines for years.

Still, Aftonbladet was keen enough to outline the travel choices available to those of us wealthy enough to resist the lure of Ryanair instant coffee after SAS’s changes come into effect on October 31.

Take your pick. There’s Business Class, seated at the front of the plane, complete with wider seats, better food and, as SVD pointed out, “champagne”. In the middle, Economy Flex, is aimed at the business traveller who wants the option of cancelling or rebooking a flight. Economy Flexers also get an express check-in service, although nobody seemed to know what that entails.

And finally, bringing up the rear, there’ll be a bit of space for the cheap seats, otherwise known as Economy Class. Tickets will be 25% cheaper than current budget prices. And those passengers eager to indulge in food or drink will have the option – if they’re prepared to pay for it.

Aftonbladet seemed pretty pleased with the changes. But SVD were having none of it. Their business correspondent Fredrik Braconier pointed out it’s still all about “transporting everyone from A to B in the same plane…and making sure there are plenty of expensive Business Class seats filled.”

“Anders Ehrling,” argued Braconier, “knows he’s got to offer a few cheaper alternatives” if he’s going to entice the business travellers.

That’s probably why Braconier felt Ehrling would make a decent used-car salesman. “He’s just dressing up the same old goods in new clothes.

Whether SAS’s latest move will cause Ryanair to retaliate is unclear. But with their prices already often as low as 99 crowns between Stockholm and London, they are unlikely to feel threatened. The real question is what SAS will do if this doesn’t work.

Instant coffee, anyone?

Jon Buscall