Airline SAS set to lose key Norway direction

The management group of Scandinavian Airlines, or SAS, is on course to lose Norwegian representation on its board when its commercial director steps down in six months' time.

Despite earning half of its business from its Norwegian operation, four Swedes and two Danes will oversee Scandinavia’s largest carrier from March 2012 onward if a suitable Norwegian isn’t found. The company’s Norwegian organized labour leader said he wasn’t amused that Robin Kamark, SAS commercial director, was deciding to step down.

“There’s a symbolic effect for the public, for staff and maybe for society as a whole that Norwegians (run the consortium) too,” said company trade union leader, Asbjørn Wikestad to broadcaster NRK.

SAS shares rose nearly four percent on the news, although at least one analyst said it was “strange” that no other Norwegian was in the SAS top rung. Norwegians are otherwise well represented in the Group’s other ranks, although the carrier’s main hub is Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport.

Newly installed group chief executive, Rickard Gustafson, has reportedly said he had “an ambition” to fill a leadership position with a Norwegian. Gustafson was brought from the finance and insurance world in January 2011 to restore company morale, cut costs, quell rebellions in key staff ranks, stem desertions to flyer Norwegian and lift company stock.

The group reported a first-quarter loss of 500 million Swedish kronor ($75 million).

Europe's ninth-largest airline, SAS flies 25 million passengers a year out of Oslo Airport Gardermoen, head office Stockholm Arlanda Airport and Copenhagen. The consortium charter started in 1946 when Norwegian, Swedish and Danish interests in transatlantic travel were combined.

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‘We agree to disagree’: Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

By lunchtime on Friday, talks between the Scandinavian airline SAS and unions representing striking pilots were still stuck on "difficult issues".

'We agree to disagree': Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

“We agree that we disagree,” Roger Klokset, from the Norwegian pilots’ union, said at lunchtime outside the headquarters of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in Stockholm, where talks are taking place. “We are still working to find a solution, and so long as there is still some point in continuing negotiations, we will do that.” 

Mats Ruland, a mediator for the Norwegian government, said that there were “still several difficult issues which need to be solved”. 

At 1pm on Friday, the two sides took a short break from the talks for lunch, after starting at 9am. On Thursday, they negotiated for 15 hours, breaking off at 1am on Friday morning. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on the SAS plane strike?

Marianne Hernæs, SAS’s negotiator on Friday told journalists she was tired after sitting at the negotiating table long into the night. 

“We need to find a model where we can meet in the middle and which can ensure that we pull in the income that we are dependent on,” she said. 

Klokset said that there was “a good atmosphere” in the talks, and that the unions were sticking together to represent their members.

“I think we’ve been extremely flexible so far. It’s ‘out of this world’,’ said Henrik Thyregod, with the Danish pilots’ union. 

“This could have been solved back in December if SAS had not made unreasonable demands on the pilots,” Klokset added. 

The strike, which is now in its 12th day, has cost SAS up to 130m kronor a day, with 2,550 flights cancelled by Thursday, affecting 270,000 passengers.