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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Copenhagen Airport passengers warned of more queues on holiday weekends

Long queues were reported at Copenhagen Airport during last week’s extended public holiday weekend and similar issues are likely during two more upcoming holidays.

Copenhagen Airport passengers warned of more queues on holiday weekends

Staff shortages at security checks, caused by a lengthy rehiring process following the Covid-19 crisis, have been blamed for crowds and long queues at Copenhagen Airport during peak times this spring.

Long waiting times at security were reported both Thursday and Sunday at Copenhagen Airport, resulting in a significant number of passengers missing flights, broadcaster DR writes.

The airport’s commercial director Peter Krogsgaard told DR that Copenhagen is not alone in experiencing problems with queues.

“Copenhagen Airport and all airports in Europe have had a lot to do in re-hiring and training many employees after corona,” Krogsgaard said.

“We are therefore seeing that, now passengers are coming back and fortunately want to travel again, we are under a bit of pressure to begin with,” he said.

This means that passengers planning to travel during two more upcoming peak times – the public holidays on Ascension Day (Thursday May 26th) and Pentecost (Monday June 6th) – should brace themselves for lengthy queues at the airport.

Up to 70,000 passengers are expected during the first of the two public holidays, according to Copenhagen Airport.

“We expect to be very busy and are therefore advising all passengers travelling within Europe to arrive two hours before their flight. If you are going to outside of Europe, to the Unites States or Asia, you should come three hours before,” Krogsgaard told DR.

Passengers have few options should they miss flights due to long waits at security, a consumer rights consultant said to DR.

“You are in a very bad situation if you get to the airport too late in relation to the waiting times there actually are at security, because it’s your own responsibility to get to the airport in time to make the flight,” Vagn Jelsøe, senior consultant with the Danish Consumer Council (Forbrugerrådet Tænk), said to DR.

The airport expects to be fully staffed by the beginning of June, DR reports.

“Since January, we’ve done nothing other than hire a lot of new people and they must be trained and educated, and it takes some time for them to get to the security lanes,” Krogsgaard also said.

Airline SAS last week said it would cancel around 4,000 flights over the summer. The decision was made due to staff shortages combined with delayed deliveries of new aeroplanes, SAS said.