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SAS to Leave Star Alliance for SkyTeam in 2024

The carrier will join Air France-KLM, Delta, Virgin Atlantic and co. in an historic shake-up of airline alliances

by Fergus Cole

March 5, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of SkyTeam

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) is expected to leave the Star Alliance and become a SkyTeam member as early as the second quarter of this year, once Air France-KLM pushes through with acquiring a majority stake in the struggling carrier.

After being hit hard by the pandemic, rising costs, and increased competition in key markets, SAS filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July 2022. And after failing to emerge from this bankruptcy protection on its own accord, the Scandinavian airline announced a major restructuring plan under a $1.16 billion investment from a winning consortium in October 2023.

Photo: SAS, Airbus A320. Courtesy of Miguel Angel Sanz / Unsplash

Part of this consortium is airline group Air France-KLM, which agreed to take a 20 percent stake in SAS, with suggestions that it could increase its stake in the future. The investment package also included U.S. investment firm Castlelake taking a 32 percent stake and the Danish state taking another 26 percent.

“The agreed investment is a key milestone in our SAS FORWARD plan, and it shows that our new investors believe in SAS and our potential to remain at the forefront of the airline industry for years to come,” said Anko van der Werff, President and CEO of SAS, after the investment was announced in October.

“Further, our move towards a partnership with SkyTeam determines a clear path forward for the company. Through the completion of this process and the opportunities presented by being part of SkyTeam, we will be able to further enhance SAS’ offerings for the benefit of our colleagues, customers and communities. We look forward to building a bright future for SAS together.”

Air France-KLM’s partial takeover of SAS would significantly affect two of the world’s leading airline alliances—Star Alliance and SkyTeam. In 1997, SAS became a founding member of Star Alliance along with United Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada, and Thai Airways.

Photo: Courtesy of Star Alliance

But with significant investment from Air France-KLM, SAS will switch to become a SkyTeam member, founded by Air France, Delta Air Lines, Korean Air, and Aeromexico in 2000.

While no date has been confirmed, this switch is expected to occur in Q2 2024, sometime between April and June.

Once it emerges from bankruptcy protection, SAS is also expected to join the SkyTeam transatlantic joint venture along with Air France-KLM, Delta, and Virgin Atlantic.

SAS has already laid the groundwork with its potential JV partners, including launching nonstop flights between Copenhagen (CPH) and Atlanta (ATL) – Delta’s primary hub – that will commence this summer.