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Scandinavian airline SAS increases flights to United States after end of travel ban

Scandinavian airline SAS announced on Wednesday it is to increase services to the United States, in a direct response to the end of the US travel ban on foreign tourists.

A SAS aircraft at Copenhagen Airport. The airline is to ramp up services to the United States in late 2021 after the end of the US Covid-19 travel ban.
A SAS aircraft at Copenhagen Airport. The airline is to ramp up services to the United States in late 2021 after the end of the US Covid-19 travel ban. Photo: Mathias Løvgreen Bojesen/Ritzau Scanpix

The United States ended its Covid travel ban on all passengers on November 8th, provided arrivals are fully vaccinated and undergo testing and contact tracing.

Effectively, the change means vaccinated travellers from Europe can now again visit the US.

US nationals living in Europe and their close family members had been able to travel home across the Atlantic despite the ban but the strict rules had made this impractical or impossible for many.

SAS will offer up to 100 flights per week between the US and Scandinavia during the Christmas and New Year period following the end of the ban, the airline said in a press statement on Wednesday.

“As a direct result of the US now opening to more visitors, demand for travel is rising sharply. SAS is now updating its traffic program and increasing the number of flights to and from the US,” the airline stated.

SAS operates flights to a number of major United States cities from Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo.

The airline resumed its Stockholm-Miami route on November 8th and will also resume flights to the Florida city from Copenhagen on November 10th, and from Oslo on November 11th.

This means that SAS will have daily flights to Miami from Scandinavia during the winter.

Services to New York will also increase with departures twice daily from Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm, starting November.

Flights from Stockholm to Chicago begin from mid-December, with daily departures already operating to the city from Copenhagen. SAS will also increase the number of flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington DC from Copenhagen over Christmas and New Year.

“It is very gratifying that we can increase the number of flights and offer our customers the chance to finally be able to travel again and experience the other side of the Atlantic, and meet with friends and family,” CCO Karl Sandlund said in the statement.

In October, Anko Van der Werff, who took over as CEO with SAS in July, said the airline faced a “fight” to “have a future” amid problems including a permanent drop in business travel and costly collective labour agreements.

READ ALSO: SAS ‘fighting for survival’ as Nordic airline’s shares plunge

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TRAVEL NEWS

EXPLAINED: What’s behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

Travellers are reporting queues over an hour long at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. What's going on and how long is it expected to last?

EXPLAINED: What's behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

What’s the situation at Stockholm Arlanda airport? 

On Friday morning, there were queues lasting over an hour at Arlanda’s security controls. By 10am, they had been reduced to below half an hour, according to the live update the airport operator, Swedavia, maintains on its website here

Swedavia first began warning of long queue times on Monday, saying the queues were the result of a resurgence in travel combined with staffing shortages at Avarn, the contractor responsible for managing the security checks. 

“The wait times are due to a staff shortage with our security services contractor – which is caused by ongoing recruitment and absences due to illness,” the airport said on its website

What are travellers saying? 

Twitter is predictably awash with angry comments from travellers, including some well-known commentators. 

The terrorism researcher Magnus Ranstorp resorted to capital letters to bemoan the “CATASTROPHE” at the airport. 

The Financial Times’ Nordic Correspondent also compared the situation at Arlanda unfavourably with the smooth controls at Helsinki Airport

“Never seen anything like it and sounds like might be worse today. In Terminal 5 both queues, SAS and Norwegian, were well over 100 metres long,” he told The Local. “It took me 50 minutes to get through security. Don’t think it’s ever taken more than 10 in the Nordics before.” 

What should you do if you are travelling through Stockholm Arlanda at the moment? 

Swedavia recommends that you arrive “well in advance” when taking a flight. You can contact your airline here to find out when their check-ins and baggage drops open.  

Swedavia also recommends that you do everything possible to speed up the check-in process, such as:

  • checking in from home
  • packing hand baggage to make screening faster
  • checking the need for a face covering in advance
  • checking that you have the right travel documents ready 

If you can’t check in from home, Swedavia recommends seeing if you can check in using an automated machine at the airport.

What is the airport doing to to improve the situation? 

On June 15th, the airport is reopening Terminal 4, which might help somewhat, although the airport warns that as staffing is the major problem, having more space will not fully solve the problem over the summer. 

In a press release issued on Friday, Svedavia’s chief operations officer, Peder Grunditz, said opening a new terminal was “an important measure”. 

“We are now going to have the three biggest terminals back in operation for the first time since the pandemic,” he said. 

The company and Avarn are also making “big recruitment efforts” and taking “operational measures” to improve the queue situation, although the “challenging labour market” made that difficult. 

When will waiting times return to normal? 

In his press release, Grunditz conceded that waiting times were not likely to return to normal during the summer, due to the rapid growth in the number of people taking flights. 

“Even though we expect gradual improvements, the queuing situation is going to continue to be challenging during periods over the summer,” he said. 

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