Scandinavian airlines change cockpit rules

UPDATED: Norwegian and SAS airlines have announced that they will require two staff in each plane's cockpit at all times following the Germanwings crash this week.

Scandinavian airlines change cockpit rules
A SAS plane coming in for landing at Copenhagen airport. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
SAS, the largest airline in the Nordics, said on Friday that it would follow Swedish authorities' suggestions to implement a new policy that requires two staff members in its cockpit at all times. 
The decision represented a reversal from earlier in the day when an airline spokesman said that it was "comfortable" with its current safety routines. 
But shortly after noon on Friday, SAS spokesman Henrik Edström told Danish news agency Ritzau that the company would change its cockpit policy in light of recommendations from Swedish air traffic authorities. 
The airline is 50-percent owned by the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian states. Each year nearly 30 million passengers travel with SAS to destinations in Europe, USA and Asia.
SAS's decision to change its policies follows a similar response announced by Nordic rival Norwegian on Thursday.
"When one person leaves the cockpit, two people will now have to be there," Norwegian's flight operations director Thomas Hesthammer said, after French officials revealed the co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings flight that crashed on Tuesday appeared to have locked the pilot out of the cockpit and deliberately crashed the plane.
Prosecutors suspect Andreas Lubitz, 28, voluntarily initiated the descent of the flight towards the French Alps where it crashed near the village of Barcelonnette, killing all 150 people on board.
Other major airlines including Easyjet, Air Berlin, Virgin Atlantic and Air Canada have also announced a change in their procedures following the incident.
Despite the international spotlight on the Germanwings crash, figures suggest that Europe remains one of the safest places to fly.
The 28 countries in the EU have the world's lowest rate of fatal accidents at 1.8 per million commercial flights, according to the European Aviation Safety Agency.
As investigations continue into the Germanwings crash, it has emerged in the German media that Lubitz had spent one and a half years in psychiatric treatment.
A Lufthansa spokeswoman told news agency Reuters on Friday that the airline would not comment on the health of the pilot.
Meanwhile Düsseldorf prosecutors have opened a parallel inquiry to the main investigation underway in France because so many of the crash victims were from the German region.
Earlier on Friday dozens of grieving family members gathered in the small village in the French Alps near to where the plane launched into the mountainside. 


SAS announces reduced loss and pins hopes on summer flights

Scandinavian airline SAS narrowed its losses in the second quarter, the company said Thursday, as it set its hopes on an easing of coronavirus restrictions this summer.

SAS announces reduced loss and pins hopes on summer flights
A SAS aircraft taking off in Paris. Photo: Charles Platiau/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

The earnings report came a day after the governments of Sweden and Denmark announced another round of aid to the ailing carrier.

From February to April, SAS booked a net loss of 2.43 billion Swedish kronor ($292 million, 240 million euros) — 30 percent smaller than in the second quarter last year.

The company also reported an improved operating profit “for the first time since the pandemic’s outbreak, both year-on-year and compared with the previous quarter,” pointing to its cost cutting efforts.

However, the number of passengers in the period declined by 140,000 compared to the first quarter, to 857,000.

This caused revenue to fall to 1.93 billion kronor, a 15 percent drop from the preceding quarter and 63 percent from a year earlier.

“The increase in vaccination rates provides some hope for the relaxation of restrictions, and an increase in demand ahead of the important summer season,” chief executive Karl Sandlund said in a statement.

However, the CEO also noted that “many customers are now increasingly choosing to book their tickets much closer to their travel dates, which makes it difficult to predict demand during the summer.”

SAS also said it expected claims from passengers of up to 150 million kronor after a European court ruled in March that customers should be compensated over disruptions due to a pilots’ strike in 2019.

After cutting 5,000 jobs last year — representing 40 percent of its workforce — SAS announced Wednesday an additional credit line of three billion kronor from the Danish and Swedish governments, its main shareholders, to get through the crisis.

The airline received a similar loan and a capital increase last year.

READ ALSO: Virus-stricken airline SAS secures new public loan from Denmark and Sweden