Final call for SAS as airline cuts 800 jobs

Written by Reuters | Copenhagen | Updated: Nov 13 2012, 10:02am hrs
Scandinavian airline SAS said Monday it will lower pensions and salaries and slash 800 jobs in an effort to cut costs by 3 billion kronor ($440 million) annually in what the CEO described as a final call for the loss-making carrier.

SAS AB will get 3.5 billion kronor in credit lines from the governments of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, as well as major banks, if it can agree on those savings cuts with labor unions.

SAS wants to renegotiate the workers employment terms and conditions as well as their pension schemes.

SAS also plans to raise about 3 billion kronor by selling its regional airline Wideroe, ground handling services and other assets. We are demanding a lot but there is no other way. This truly is our final call if there is to be an SAS in the future, CEO Rickard Gustafson said.

SAS is being hurt by the combination of a drop in demand due to a global economic downturn, high costs and competition from low-cost carriers. Last week, Norwegian Air Shuttle, one of Europes fastest-growing airlines and a big competitor of SAS, announced it will start next May its first long-haul flights to New York and Bangkok from Oslo and Stockholm.

We havent made money in a number of years and we cannot continue to operate if we do not demonstrate that we can earn money and make a profit, Gustafson said in Stockholm, where the company is headquartered.

Our credit providers have said that we give you this chance to turn the company around.

As SAS announced the restructuring details, it also presented its third-quarter results, which showed net profit doubled to 434 million kronor ($64 million) as sales rose 5%to 11.1 billion kronor (1.6 billion).

Gustafson said the companys five-point plan had not yet been presented to employees, who now would have to digest it and form their own opinion.

The restructuring plans, including the sale of Wideroe, will result in the overall number of SAS employees falling from around 15,000 to 9,000.

Bente Sorgenfrey of Denmarks FTF union that has most of the 2,000 cabin and ground crew employees in Denmark called the plan violent.