SAS announced that it had signed a Memorandum Of Understanding with Airbus for the purchase of 12 new aircraft plus 6 options for its long haul fleet.
The $3.3 Billion package that will be financed via sales/lease back and export credit financing. Under the deal some existing aircraft will also receive cabin upgrades. The newly revamped modern long haul fleet secures a lower operating cost and a sustainable growth on the short and longer term.
The carrier will initially receive 4 A330-300 Enhanced as early as the middle of 2015. By 2018, 8 new A350-900 will begin arriving in time to replace the current A340 whose leases are due to expire. Options for another 6 A350-900 have also been secured.
The cabin upgrades that are due to be completed in 2015 will keep the ‘interim fleet’ relevant by incorporating amenities like newer HD Video On demand system as well as fully flat business class seats on seven currently deployed A330 (3) and A340 (4) aircraft.
The A330-300 Enhanced alongside the A330-300.
The A330-300 normally seats 295 passengers when configured in 3 classes and 335 in two. It has a length of 63.6m (208 ft 11 in) and uses the 222 inches fuselage cross section shared among the A330/A340 and now A350 family.
The Enhanced version will introduce by the middle of the year 2015 a newer Higher Maximum Take Off Weight variant of the A330 family brought up to 242 Tonnes from 235 Tonnes originally. From an operational standpoint the aircraft which also burns 2% less fuel benefits from an increase of more than 5 tonnes of payload. By carrying more fuel, the -Enhanced shows 500 nm more legs making it capable of pushing past the 6,050 nm (11,200 km.) range. The aircraft retains a pair of either RR Trent 700, GE CF6-80E1 or PW4000 -series engine all advertised with thrust between 68,000 and 72,000 lb (303 to 320 kN) slst (sea level static thrust).
Enter the A350-900, Exit the A340-300
SAS long haul fleet has relied on 7 A340-300 whose 3-class cabin configuration permits 46 passengers in Business Class, 28 in Economy Extra and 171 in Economy seating for 245-seats total while the identical size A330-300 accept 264 passengers (34-35-195). The A340-300 would typically fly far out to 7,400 nm (13,700 km) relying on 4 CFM56-5C4/P high bypass turbofan engines.
With a fuselage length of 66.89 m (219 ft 5 in), the A350-900 is completely new aircraft design that comfortably can fly out to 8,100 nm (15,000) km with 314 passengers in typical 3-class configuration (compared to 295 for similarly configured A330/A340). The 20% increase in seating capacity as recognized by SAS along with 30% lower fuel burn per passenger and a 50 % reduction in noise (against the A340) will connect an unprecedented number of city pairs. The city-pair concept along with the properly sizing passenger density on their routes are key to operators. It is normally recognized that new routes require years of operation before becoming mature in terms of passengers density. Hence a smaller-capacity aircraft with lower operating cost is better optimized to reduce the risk of operating on newer route where a profit may not be realized instantly. For the long haul, aircraft with ultra long range capabilities such as the A350 with their lower operating cost can help carrier start and develop new city-pair routes that were previously out of range for twin engines (older Boeing 767 and A330). After years of steadily growing passenger traffic one can surmise that frequency will increase and/or very large aircraft such as 777-300ER or even 747-8 and A380 will be required on a mature route.
In the A350, SAS has recognized the benefits of altogether terminating quad engine A340 operation. Superior range and much lower operating cost along with modern passenger comfort will play well in increasing flights and innovating products on routes feeding its Global hubs. With membership in the 28-airlines strong Star Alliance global network and advantageous market share in the nordic countries the carrier will.