Airline SAS traffic tumbles 62% in March as pandemic hits

FILE PHOTO: A Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) plane is refuelled at Oslo Gardermoen airport

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Scandinavian airline SAS <SAS.ST> said on Tuesday that its passenger traffic (RPK) fell 62% in March compared to the same month last year as the outbreak of the novel coronavirus grounded flights, closed borders and extinguished demand.

"As an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions imposed by many governments, SAS capacity was reduced by over 45% compared to last year," the airline said in a statement.

"During April, almost all flights will be canceled except for a few domestic routes in Norway and Sweden."

The airline has temporarily laid off almost all of its staff since the coronavirus brought international travel to a near complete standstill in March, while domestic travel has also been severely impacted.

SAS, which is partially state-owned, has received credit guarantees from Denmark and Sweden, which both hold a roughly 14% stakes in the airline, and Norway.

The airline said it had been in a strong financial position when the virus struck, and welcomed financial support.

However, it said that "the earmarked amounts will not suffice to secure and safeguard critical infrastructure if the situation is prolonged".

(Reporting by Simon Johnson; editing by Niklas Pollard)