Bernie Baldwin

In recent years, a feature in European aviation has been the growth of regional carriers taking on ACMI (wet lease) work for bigger carriers. SAS is one of the carriers that has employed smaller operators to connect the regional centres to the big cities, providing one-stop access to the world via Stockholm Arlanda and Copenhagen in particular.

The ACMI dynamic changed during the pandemic. Mikael Wångdahl, VP external production at SAS, who oversees the airline’s relationships with regional carriers, confirms that all 42 wet-lease operation aircraft have been grounded since the second half of March, except for one ATR serving a limited domestic Danish operation.

In June, things began to change. “We had a small ramp up to operating three ATRs and five CRJ900s. The 3 ATR´s are operated by Xfly [the operating brand of Estonia’s Regional Jet OÜ] while CityJet is flying the CRJ900s,” Wångdahl reports.

There is clearly a role for ACMI operators during the recovery; their aircraft may be more suited to market demand on certain routes. “We are considering best operating costs during the ramp-up to best match revenues available. Normally smaller aircraft have the best trip costs, but in the current situation the trip cost will be built on the additional cost – such as the incremental cost and variable cost from our standstill costs,” Wångdahl adds. “We are looking to use the production which adds the least cost per trip to secure a cost effective ramp-up to enable our recovery in a very weak market.”