Skift Take

The prospect of another carrier at the world’s busiest airport might not sound too exciting, but this new arrival tells part of a much bigger story.

Atlanta will have a new transatlantic option this summer. From June 17, SAS Scandinavian Airlines will fly nonstop daily between Copenhagen and the Georgia hub. The timing of the announcement is notable for one main reason. 

Late last year, SAS, a founding member of the Star Alliance, said it would leave the group of airlines. This followed Air France-KLM – a cornerstone of rival SkyTeam – snapping up a shareholding in the Scandinavian company. While the Franco-Dutch firm only holds a minority equity stake, the mood music has shifted considerably in recent weeks. 

Why Delta’s Network Will Be Critical

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is not only the world’s busiest airport, it also has a rather important tenant. The gateway is the home and hub for Delta Air Lines, a key partner for Air France-KLM and by definition, now a good friend of SAS. 

Based on point-to-point traffic alone, a year-round Cophenhagen-Atlanta service operated by a large widebody jet simply wouldn’t make money. A critical part of the business model relies upon feeder flights. 

Inbound SAS passengers will be able to make easier connections in Atlanta, plugging into Delta’s vast network across the Americas and beyond. Outbound travelers will also be able to take advantage of better one-stop routings to smaller cities in Northern Europe, which don’t have their own nonstop transatlantic links. It should be a win-win for both parties.

SAS management also highlights the importance of cargo for the new route, which will operate daily in summer with Airbus A330s and five times weekly in winter with A350s. 

The jump into Georgia isn’t the only transatlantic development for SAS this year. Frequencies are also being boosted across existing routes with Copenhagen-New York JFK seeing twice-daily departures, and other enhancements for Boston and Toronto schedules. Atlanta will represent SAS’s ninth destination in North America.

With SAS’s formal membership of SkyTeam due later this year, expect this new Atlanta route to be the first of several network changes to better suit its new international partners.

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Tags: air france-klm, airbus, atlanta, delta air lines, sas airlines

Photo credit: The Atlanta skyline at night Delta Air Lines / Delta Air Lines

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