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SAS to Exit Star Alliance, Join SkyTeam as Air France-KLM Acquires Stake

In a surprising move, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has announced its intent to exit the Star Alliance, a coalition of airlines it helped found back in 1997. The news comes as Air France-KLM bids to acquire a non-controlling 19.9% stake in the beleaguered Scandinavian carrier, subject to approval by regulators.

At first glance, this departure from the Star Alliance might seem shocking, given SAS’s historical role as one of its founding members. However, a closer look reveals the stark financial challenges that SAS has been grappling with since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline’s struggle for survival has been so intense that it recently secured an extension of bankruptcy protection that will stretch into 2024. In light of these circumstances, SAS’s decision to seek a quick infusion of cash by selling a substantial stake in the company doesn’t come as a complete surprise.

As of now, the specifics of this deal remain shrouded in mystery, with few details available to the public. However, one can reasonably expect SAS to continue operating under its own brand and identity within the SkyTeam alliance.

For Star Alliance loyalists, this departure marks a loss, as SAS has been a familiar presence within the network for over two decades. On the flip side, this move bolsters the network strength of the SkyTeam alliance. It adds three new hubs to its roster, namely Copenhagen (CPH), Stockholm (ARN), and Oslo (OSL). Notably, this comes at a time when Dutch authorities are actively implementing flight caps at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) as part of a deliberate strategy to shrink operations at the hub.

This development takes place against the backdrop of a broader wave of consolidation in the European airline industry. Just recently, TAP Air Portugal was put up for sale as the Portuguese government seeks to privatize the state-owned carrier. The winds of change are blowing across the European skies, and SAS’s shift from Star Alliance to SkyTeam is a notable gust in this evolving landscape.

While SAS has been an important part of the Star Alliance, the airline’s financial struggles and the need for a cash injection have made this unexpected move just a little less shocking. As we await more details about the implications of this shift, it’s evident that the European airline industry is in a state of flux, with consolidation and change on the horizon.