SAS losses fall sharply

Scandinvian Airlines System (SAS) said Thursday it had sharply narrowed its losses in the first quarter on increased sales and cost-cutting measures and predicted favourable trends in passenger growth for the rest of the year.

The airline reported a first quarter net loss of 47 million kronor ($7.0 million) from 1.06 billion in the same period last year.

“Seasonally this is the weakest quarter of the year,” said SAS chairman Mats Jonsson, “but we have adjusted our capacity to lower demand levels.”

First quarter sales rose 6.6 percent to 13.839 billion kronor, just shy of 14.283 billion foreseen by analysts at SME-Direkt.

The number of passengers carried by SAS in the first three months of the year jumped 6.3 percent to 9.1 million, the company said, adding that its cost-cutting goal of 2.5 billion kronor in 2006-2007 had been 85 percent achieved by March.

SAS had come close to bankruptcy several years ago amid a global crisis in the airline sector following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, the war in Iraq and the SARS epidemic.

But thanks to several drastic savings measures it managed to return to profit last year.

Looking ahead, SAS said in a statement Thursday that “there are currently no indications of a slowdown in the economy or the airline market.”

“However, uncertainty remains regarding the strength of growth, the future competitive situation and the trend for jet fuel prices. The trend in the first quarter was in a positive direction and continued favourable passenger growth is expected in most of the SAS Group’s markets for the full-year 2007.”

But the company added that competition in all its markets “is expected to remain intense.”


‘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.