Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has confirmed that London Heathrow Airport will be the first base outside Scandinavia to be used by its new, Ireland-based operating unit.

SAS is seeking new bases that have lower overheads than in Scandinavia, where labor costs are notoriously high. Its Irish unit also plans to open a second base in Malaga, southern Spain.

An SAS spokesman said Heathrow had been its first choice from the outset, partly because of the carrier’s long association with the west London airport and partly because of customer demand: “I don’t think it’s ever been an option to fly from another airport,” he said.

SAS president and CEO Rickard Gustafson has previously said the aim is to start operations from the new Heathrow base from Nov. 1. The spokesman said July 6 the exact date is still to be confirmed, “but we have said that it will be up and running by the end of the year. The plan is to have Malaga up and running in spring 2018.”

SAS currently has 17 daily slot pairs at Heathrow and has not yet decided whether some will be transferred to the new, Ireland-based entity or remain with the parent company, he added. 

The airline will operate nine Airbus A320neos under the new Irish air operator’s certificate, with five based at Heathrow and four at Malaga. SAS has 30 A320neos on order, of which six have been delivered.

Alan Dron