The Story Of Scandinavian Airlines’ Short-Lived Low-Cost Brand

Over the years, and particularly in the early 21st century, several leading airlines attempted to form their own low-cost brands. British Airways had Go Fly, Delta Air Lines had Song, and United Airlines had Ted, to name just a few. A short-lived experiment in this field was Snowflake, a low-cost brand launched by SAS in 2003.

In the beginning

The Snowflake brand initially came into existence under a different moniker, namely Scandinavian Light, in December 2002. At this time when Scandinavian Airlines was looking to place a greater emphasis on the European leisure market amid the backdrop of a restructuring scheme. Low-cost travel in Europe was also booming.

This prompted SAS to examine the business models of budget carriers such as Eurowings and Ryanair, with the result being the decision to form its own low-cost brand to compete in this sector. Mediterranean holiday destinations were of particular interest, as this wasn’t a market that SAS’s mainline operations targeted.

Between announcing the plans for such a brand in December 2002 and launching it in March 2003, the subsidiary’s name changed from Scandinavian Light to Snowflake. While SAS is the flag carrier for Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, it only based Snowflake aircraft in the former two. This was because it believed that its SAS Braathens brand would provide sufficient low-cost coverage in Norway.

SAS Snowflake Boeing 737

Fleet and destinations

Operating out of Copenhagen Kastrup (Terminal 2) and Stockholm Arlanda (Terminal 5), Snowflake typically served its destinations between one and four times a week. With the Mediterranean region being a key target market, the carrier flew to multiple airports in countries such as Italy, France, Spain, and Turkey.

However, Snowflake’s network did also have something of a broader appeal. As SAS didn’t want the low-cost brand to cannibalize its own flights, this saw it also serve an interesting range of smaller European airports situated away from the Mediterranean. These included Belgrade, Inverness, Sarajevo, and Skopje.

In terms of the jets that Snowflake flew, data from shows that six SAS aircraft were used for these low-cost leisure-focused flights. The dominant type in this instance was the Boeing 737-800, of which four examples bore Snowflake’s lemon-yellow tail. Its other two aircraft were McDonnell Douglas MD-82s.


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All over within two years

While Snowflake flew a total of six aircraft over the years, it never operated more than four at the same time. This was because, in March 2004, after a year of operations, it swapped two of its Boeing 737-800s in favor of a pair of McDonnell Douglas MD-82s. This limited the scalability of Snowflake’s operations, which ultimately meant that it was unable to generate the savings SAS had hoped for.

Despite the average load factor on Snowflake flights increasing from 40 to 80% between the spring and summer of 2004, this wasn’t enough to keep the brand alive. SAS announced in August 2004 that it would terminate the brand in October. Snowflake’s aircraft then returned to SAS, and none are active at present.

Did you know about Snowflake? Perhaps you even flew with SAS’s short-lived low-cost brand yourself back in the day? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!


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