Three Countries, One Airline, 54 years

On August 1, 1946, Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) was born. Formed from the three airlines of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, today’s SAS travels the world, much as the Vikings of Scandinavia did centuries ago.

The airlines that formed SAS were Det Danske Luftfartselkab A/S (DDL), AB Aerotransport (ABA) and Det Norske Luftfartselkab A/S (DNL). ABA of Sweden holds a 3/7 stake in SAS, while the remaining two each hold a 2/7 share.

DDL Danish Airlines was first formed in the fall of 1918, flying the German Friedrichshafen FF49 biplane on floats. Later, some English Avro 504Ks and de Havilland DH9s were added to the growing fleet. ABA Swedish Airlines began service in 1924 with the single engine corrugated skin Junkers F13. Given the plentiful waterways of the environment, this German aircraft was also a floatplane. DNL Norwegian Airlines also operated German aircraft when their doors opened in 1927, with the Junkers W34 and Ju 52 transports.

It did not take 19 years for this trio to enter negotiations to join forces, but as with many thoughts and ideas of Europe, World War II interrupted the plans being made in the Thirties. While Denmark and Norway were occupied by Germany, many of the DDL and DNL aircraft were absorbed in the Luftwaffe. This was particularly true of the German aircraft such as the Junkers Ju 52 trimotor and the Focke Wulf Fw 200 Condors. ABA in neutral Sweden continued to operate — albeit on much reduced scale — but during this period ABA and the Swedes spent quite a bit of effort in laying the groundwork for the post-war period by negotiating routes, rights and fees.

During the initial lead-in period, an international service known as OSAS or Overseas SAS was created, for flights to North and South America. This proved the economy of consolidating resources, and on August 1st, 1946 the flag carriers of three nations became the flag carrier of a region. This is why the SAS fleet is adorned with one name, yet carries three national crests on the fuselage. And now today, entering the 21st Century, this trinity has become allied again, as a partner in the Star Alliance.

In modern times of airline mergers, code-sharing and international consortiums, it’s interesting to know that one can look back over 50 years to see the first version of this consolidation effort.