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Photo: Clément Morin

Aviation

People of SAS: Niklas Hårdänge works for more sustainable air travel

With every part of SAS working on ways of achieving more sustainable travel, the most visible sign is the major investment in new aircraft. Niklas Hårdänge’s Fleet Management team is key to making this happen.

Over the next few years, SAS will gradually phase in new aircraft, resulting in a fleet comprising exclusively of modern, fuel-efficient aircraft. Niklas Hårdänge, Vice President Fleet Management, and his eight-strong team of mainly business-driven engineers are working principally in the areas of aircraft specification, technological development, next-generation aircraft, long-term planning and aircraft financing.

“Step by step, we’re working to reduce our carbon footprint by doing what’s possible here and now. Our goal is to be a role model in the airline industry,” he says. To manage this, the team needs to be at the forefront of technological change in the sector.

The Airbus A350 emits 30% less CO2 that its predecessor, the Airbus A340

 “At SAS, we’re currently in the midst of a technological leap by introducing new and more fuel-efficient planes. A perfect example is the Airbus A350-900, which made its maiden voyage from Copen-hagen to Chicago in January and which emits 30% less CO2 per seat than its predecessor, the A340-300. We’ve also now received 35 (of a total of 80) short-haul A320neo planes and by the end of 2023, the renewal of the fleet will be completed,” Hårdänge says.

Trusted company

Niklas Hårdänge, Vice President Fleet Management at SAS. Photo: Clément Morin“SAS wants to be at the forefront and is constantly working to be part of development. We work closely with aircraft manufacturers in terms of innovation as well as technology development and other requirements. When we buy aircraft, we negotiate everything – the price and conditions, of course, but also the right working environment, passenger comfort, guarantees and the timetable so that we get delivery that fits our plans and the phasing out of the aircraft we want to replace,” he adds.

Technological change in aviation is closely tied to the development of the next generation of aircraft, which is another focus area for Fleet Management. Thanks to SAS’ reputation as a trustworthy, forward-looking company when it comes to sustainability, travel and safety, its experts are often asked to provide input on the development of new aircraft and new business models.

“We participate in development projects run by aircraft manufacturers in many areas of technological development and more efficient planes, which are key parts of SAS’ future planning,” Hårdänge adds.

A long term job

On average, SAS’ fleet turnover is 10% per year.

Hårdänge and his team often rely on the expertise of other departments to do their job.
“A good example of our specification team’s work is the retractable tray in the aft galley on the A350s, which makes it easier for the cabin crew to fill their jugs with hot water. Airbus liked the idea and they plan to introduce the tray as a standard.

The future, and in particular SAS’ ultimate vision for climate-neutral air travel, is what Fleet Management is really all about, with long-term planning essential in this ever-changing sector.

“We’re aware that this is a long-term job and we’ve been working continuously to improve our operations. SAS has very competent employees and is appreciated by the market as a serious operator that takes the climate issue and safety seriously, because it’s not just about innovation and development, but also how we specify the aircraft and equip the cabin.

“When I started in Fleet Management in 2008, the SAS Group was a lot bigger with subsidiaries all over Europe. Today, we’re smaller but we’ve managed to grow in the Nordic region by improving productivity and increasing the average size of our aircraft. Making fewer flights with larger cabins is also another way for us to reduce emissions,” says Hårdänge, who is proud of the first-class team around him.

“Most leasing companies and manufacturers like working with us,” he says.      

“We’re honest and fair and I think you can go a long way with that.”

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