Norwegian lands top SAS post

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Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) hasn’t had any Norwegians in its top management for nearly two years, even though Norway remains a part-owner and generates half of SAS’ income. Now, though, Norwegian Eivind Roald has landed the job as head of SAS’ sales and marketing.

Eivind Roald is described as highly enthusiastic and eager to take on sales and marketing responsibility at SAS, which has been faced with turbulence for years. PHOTO: SAS

Roald, age 45, has most recently been chief executive for Hewlett Packard’s Norwegian division, and previously was a consultant at Accenture.

Now he’ll join SAS’ top management team as director of sales and marketing, in a move that SAS chief executive Rickard Gustafson said will “complete” what he called a “strong group management team … ready to take SAS forward.”

SAS reported on Wednesday that it carried 1.9 million passengers in December, up 1.7 percent. Load factors declined, though, to 70 percent. Overall bookings were higher than last year’s level going into the New Year, but so-called “premium bookings” at higher fares were weaker.

Roald will be the only Norwegian along with Danes in charge of operations, personnel and communications and Swedes in charge of finance, commercial, legal and infrastructure functions. Gustafson cited Roald’s passion for sales, a “constant focus on achieving results” and his enthusiasm, along with rounding out a Scandinavian team by being Norwegian.

Roald himself has been a frequent flyer for years, mostly on SAS, and thus knows the company well from a customer’s point of view. He told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that he now hopes SAS can bury national rivalry among the airline’s three Scandinavian owners, claiming it’s not productive.

He characterized himself as “a salesman from top to toe” and wants to bring some of the culture that Hewlett Packard has succeeded with to SAS. The airline industry needs better use of technology, for example, Roald said.

“SAS has a unique position in a challenging market and amongst Scandinavians,” Roald said. “I’m extremely motivated to contribute and help support the transition that SAS is currently undergoing. I really look forward to join SAS.”

He’ll assume his new job in Stockholm in April, and DN reported he’ll commute from his home outside Oslo.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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