SAS put Nordic cooperation to true test
During the first half of the 1940s, World War II put on hold not only people’s lives but also business negotiations. As soon as peace returned to Europe, it was time to get back to business. One of the things that were quickly picked up again was the merger of Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian intercontinental air travel.
The negotiations took some time, but on July 31, 1946, they came to a conclusion at the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association in Oslo. It was the sixth meeting between the parties, and while it turned into a marathon session, it was also the last one.
The day had turned to August 1, and it was 3 o’clock in the morning, but the end result was an agreement that gave Denmark and Norway two-sevenths each and Sweden three-sevenths of the new joint venture. The famished negotiators – Danish DDL’s Per Kampmann, Norwegian DNL’s Thomas S. Falck Jr., and Swedish SILA’s representative, banker Marcus Wallenberg – straggled back to the Grand Hotel in Oslo, only to find that all the restaurants were closed. But help was at hand, as the hotel’s night porter shared his sandwiches with them.
On August 22, 1946, Kampmann, Falck, Wallenberg, and SAS CEO Per A. Norlin posed for Svenska Dagbladet and laid down their vision for the new enterprise.
“The negotiations started in 1940,” Kampmann told the paper. “But now, thanks to this joint venture, we’ll be better equipped to meet the competition from foreign operators who have more capital and more resources,” he added.
The new company started out with SKr100 million on the books. All parties were pleased and filled with optimism. Wallenberg noted that the partners would surely complement each other, since “the Danes are considered the best salesmen, the Norwegians the best merchant shippers, while the Swedes maybe have the best technical and administrative know-how.”
While SAS was initially only a joint venture for intercontinental air traffic, it was by no means an afterthought. Carl Florman, the CEO of ABA, the Swedish airline that ran the domestic and European routes, told Swedish media that Europe was (already) too small a market for them.
The expansion of air traffic and the foundation of SAS were expected to help Scandinavian exports as well. And SAS hit the ground running. In November 1946, Svenska Dagbladet reported a gigantic aircraft order.
“The biggest aircraft order to America from Europe was signed on Friday afternoon in Captain Forman’s office at the AB Aerotransport’s headquarters at Kungholmen Square [in central Stockholm] when the American Douglas’s sales director received an order for no less than 17 DC-6 planes,” the report said. “The total value of the order is estimated to be SKr50 million.”
Of the 17 planes, seven were earmarked to SAS. The new planes had pressure cabins that allowed them to fly higher, and they traveled at a breakneck speed: The SAS planes had 48 seats during the day. For night flights they could be converted into “24 comfortable beds.”
But by the time of the order, and years before the expected delivery of the planes, SAS had already made its official inaugural flight from Stockholm to New York, a hit product if there ever was one.
Published: February 4, 2016