SAS resumes flights to China after eight-month coronavirus hiatus

Almost eight months and an ongoing global pandemic after suspending services, direct SAS flights to Shanghai are set to resume on September 29th, the company has confirmed following approval from Chinese authorities.

SAS resumes flights to China after eight-month coronavirus hiatus
A SAS flight over Russia in 2017. Photo: Vibeke Toft/Ritzau Scanpix

Scandinavian airline SAS suspended flights to China on January 31st due to fears that the novel coronavirus could spread outside of the Asian country.

“With the reopening of the route, SAS is aiming to meet demand for business travel and air freight services between Scandinavia and China,” the company said in a statement.

Due to ongoing uncertainty regarding restrictions and potential changes in travel advice, SAS is offering travellers the option to change a planned journey or ticket for a SAS Travel Voucher up to 16 days prior to departure. This applies to all international travel until January 15th.

READ ALSO: SAS airline vows to refund passengers after criticism from Swedish consumer agency

While the January 31st suspension applied to direct flights to both Shanghai and Beijing, the service to the Chinese capital is still awaiting approval and is not expected to resume until the end of October.

SAS stockholders earlier this week approved a rescue package providing billions of kroner in relief to the airline, which is struggling due to the economic impact of the pandemic.

The package, worth 8.5 million Danish kroner, is primarily funded by the Danish and Swedish states.

At the time of writing, SAS is currently operating services to 75 destinations. Prior to the pandemic, the airline served around 125 destinations from Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen.

August 2020 saw 74 percent fewer passengers on SAS flights compared to the same month in 2019.



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Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.”