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SAS chairman: 'now it's business as usual'

The Local · 19 Nov 2012, 15:02

Published: 19 Nov 2012 15:02 GMT+01:00

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David Landes, 6:15pm

We've come to the end of a busy day for SAS during which frantic negotiations with unions have resulted in agreements which will allow the airline to avoid bankruptcy

SAS board chairman Fritz Schur told reporters on Monday afternoon that the airline would continue serving its routes.

"Now it's business as usual," he said, according to TT.

"There have been several destinations where SAS can't compete, but now we can."

He explained that the new savings plan and extended credit line would allow SAS to upgrade its fleet of aging aircraft.

Despite Schur's optimism, some experts remain sceptical about the airline's future.

"I can’t see a future for SAS if they stay in Europe," airline expert Anders Lidman told The Local's Oliver Gee.

Either way, investors seemed happy with Monday's developments, helping push the price of SAS shares up 23 percent on the Stockholm stock exchange.

Stay tuned to The Local during the rest of the week for more news about SAS and its bid to avoid bankruptcy.

David Landes, 5:15pm

SAS board vice chair Jacob Wallenberg said at a press conference at Copenhagen's Kastrup airport that he was satisfied with the deal.

"We're happy that the CEO and the rest of management completed these negotiations with staff," he said, according to TT.

"Today we've created the conditions to survive on our own," he said, adding that the airline will now be able to invest in new, more modern planes.

David Landes, 5:04pm

Swedish news agency TT has been trying to cover the SAS union negotiations like a blanket. Since news emerged around 3pm that the final union had signed up to the deal, the TT news feed has 25 updates on the story (and counting).

"The Board has decided that the conditions for the implementation of 4 Excellence NG plan exist," the company said in a statement.

In other words, now that the eight union groups are on board, the company can move ahead with implementing its savings and restructuring plans.

CEO Rickard Gustafson called the day's events a "first step" but a "very important step".

Rebecca Martin, 4:32pm

SAS fans rejoiced at the news the airline was safe and a tweet from the company that all deals had been signed resulted in a retweet frenzy.

Oliver Gee, 3:49pm

I just chatted to airline industry consultant Anders Lidman, and asked him what it all means.

He said: "It's like the meaning of life - it's complicated."

Furthermore, he doesn't see a bright future for the airline if they don't change their ways. More on this soon.

David Landes, 3:02pm

CAU, the union of the Danish cabin crew workers, has agreed to a new labour agreement, according to Danish news service Ritzau. CAU's agreement with SAS means the airline has come to an agreement with all eight labour unions about a savings package that management hopes will save the airline from bankruptcy.

Oliver Gee, 1:59pm

The Danish union CAU has not thrown in the towel yet, but the discussions are showing signs of coming to an end, according to the TT news agency.

“It’s moving forward,” union spokesperson Helge Thuesen told TT.

Meanwhile, the SAS chairman Fritz Schur arrived on the scene in Copenhagen just before midday, refusing to comment to media upon arrival.

David Landes, 1.49pm

Ratings agency Standard and Poor's (S&P) has lowered SAS's credit rating from B- to CCC+, the agency said in a statement on Monday.

According to S&P, the ongoing crisis negotiations have damaged confidence in the airline among customers and suppliers, a trend which will take time to reverse.

Analysts at S&P also have concerns about a possible liquidity crisis at SAS, indicating as well that the airline's credit rating may be cut further.

Rebecca Martin, 1:47pm

Fun fact: In 2006, the company introduced a new biometric system where each passenger's fingerprints are matched to their luggage.

The innovative scheme is supposed to be phased in at all Swedish airports served by SAS, although at the moment it is completely voluntary for passengers.

David Landes, 12:21pm

According to Danish media, the one union which has yet to sign onto the SAS savings plan, CAU, has submitted a proposed agreement to SAS.

Should it be accepted, the company's board must then then decide if the agreements meet owners demands. And then banks much agree to give the ailing airline a 3.5 billion kronor credit line.

Oliver Gee, 12:13pm

Our colleague Ann Törnkvist has been trying to figure out what happens to SAS customers' EuroBonus miles. One big question is whether Star Alliance (of which SAS is a member) will be able to find a solution. Stay tuned.

David Landes, 12:01pm

Story continues below…

Shares in SAS jumped up by about 25 percent to 7 kronor per share shortly after 10am on Monday, a marked improvement from the 4.80 kronor per share price from last Thursday.

Rebecca Martin, 11:55am

The official SAS Facebook page, which has over 315,000 fans and the company’s Twitter account have been flooded with comments from well-wishers – as well as questions from concerned passengers about flights and frequent flyer points.

Oliver Gee, 11:45am

After meetings that stretched from Sunday night into Monday morning, seven out of eight unions have signed deals with SAS - leaving only the Danish cabin crew unsigned, which is currently in discussions.

Swedish and Norwegian pilot associations have agreed to accept significant pay cuts in order to save the airline, and cabin staff in Sweden will suffer from longer working hours and a truncated retirement scheme.

David Landes, 11:15am

Trying to make sense of the SAS crisis? Check some of The Local's recent reporting on the airline's financial difficulties.

Troubled SAS has 'less than a year' left: expert

SAS in last minute bid to avoid collapse: report

SAS postpones third quarter financial report

SAS assures profits as share trading resumes

Troubled SAS rejects bankruptcy rumours

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Your comments about this article

12:38 November 19, 2012 by globaltracker
While SAS will or will not have to pack it's bags I played safe and bought a suitcase with my frequent flyer miles last week :)
13:45 November 19, 2012 by skogsbo
if SAS were clever, they could have played their own shares through the turbulence and the profit would have ended their worries, that however would be illegal. But there is insider dealing in every other avenue, so I wouldn't be suprised. Press release one day about union disaster, markets open the next day and magically 7/8 unions are on side. mmmmmm ?
14:00 November 19, 2012 by expatjourno
I wish they could find a way to fire the entire Danish union. They have been the least cooperative throughout and are now endangering the jobs of tens of thousands of people. This whole manufactured crisis disgusts me - SAS turned a profit in the third quarter and this is all about selling SAS for a higher price.

If the Danes bankrupt SAS, many of the Norwegians and Swedes will eventually get jobs with whoever picks up the pieces. But not one Dane. They will be finished in the industry forever.
15:04 November 19, 2012 by skogsbo
never trusted a paid union worker, they only have a vested interest in themselves.
22:06 November 23, 2012 by wakak
When the chairman says 'business as usual', it is scary. Business should be better than usual, if he wants to save SAS, considering the gap in price and quality vs the other airlines.

He could try flying Swiss, Air France or Lufthansa, or even Easyjet just to realize how bad SAS is. Basically, with SAS, one pays more than Air France for a service worse than Easyjet.

The difference being also that Easyjet attendants are nice with the passengers, whereas SAS ones do not care.
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