‘SAS had 10 days’ worth of cash’: Wallenberg

Scandinavian airlines SAS was on the brink of collapse in November, the company's board vice chair Jacob Wallenberg admitted in an interview on Saturday.

'SAS had 10 days' worth of cash': Wallenberg

During a hectic week of negotiations last month, the airline was running out of cash and brought a bankruptcy lawyer into the boardroom for the last two days of talks with unions.

“We had enough cash to keep going for another 10 days,” Wallenberg told broadsheet Dagens Nyheter (DN).

The dramatic events in November were preceded by months of planning in order to renegotiate the airline’s loans.

But union representatives were not informed of all the details until October, a move which Wallenberg now defends.

“We knew that the day we would go public money would start bleeding out of the company. Future passengers would stop booking tickets and contractors would start demanding cash-in-hand.”

Negotiations with Swedish, Norwegian and Danish unions lasted for one, intensive week after the airline announced plans to slash 3 billion kronor ($445 million) in costs.

The company also announced that at least 800 jobs would be cut in what SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson labelled “the final call” for the troubled airline.

“The banks demanded that all aircraft staff sign the deal, or else our loans would not be extended,” said Wallenberg.

He said that the board was ready to file for bankruptcy and that a lawyer was therefore at hand during the negotiations.

Wallenberg dismissed the idea that the board painted a bleak picture of the company’s troubles in order to scare the unions into submission.

“Had we not sealed the deal SAS would have folded and 15,000 employees would have lost their jobs. It would have been the largest bankruptcy case ever in Scandinavia,” said Wallenberg.

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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.