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The battle for key customers: How SAS is ensuring its survival in an increasingly tough market

At PA’s executive seminar, Rickard Gustafson, CEO of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), explained why, for an airline to survive, all employees must focus on improving efficiency.

Richard described how he led an extensive rescue plan after SAS – the largest airline in Scandinavia – came close to bankruptcy in 2012.

After introducing new employee agreements, centralising the administration function and outsourcing SAS’s ground handling team, the company is now half-way through a streamlining process that will ensure its survival in an increasingly tough market.

Last year, SAS made its first profit in years. This is despite the fact that, during the last 10 years, low-cost airline companies in Europe have increased their market share by 10% and traditional operators are seeing just 1% growth. With almost three-quarters of all SAS flights taking place in Europe, the airline must win the battle for customers.

According to the CEO, the  company keeps itself competitive through simplicity, efficiency, precision and a sharp focus on frequent travellers: “This applies to both business people and leisure travellers flying to and from Scandinavia. The most important thing to these travellers is flexibility and direct flights that are on time.”

Rickard stressed that, despite the crisis, SAS has been able to expand the number of flights and routes with the opening of 40 new routes from Scandinavian airports.

Use social media to get to know your clients

The need for client segmentation was discussed by PA’s country head in Denmark, Frank Madsen.

Frank recommended SAS strengthen its communication in all online channels including social media: “You can never get too close to your clients in a tough market. You need to create positive customer experiences from the minute customers book their tickets, during the flight and when they reach their destination.”

Frank also introduced an analysis of what customers are saying about SAS in the social media. When the airline launched an ad, in which customers were asked to talk about their favourite holiday destination, the number of tweets mentioning them increased dramatically: “Encourage your customers to speak and let them generate positive publicity for you.”


If you want to know how PA can help you survive and thrive in turbulent times, please contact us now.

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