When it was very turbulent around SAS thirty years ago, the press conferences in the glass palace in Frösundavik followed a given pattern.

It started with the charismatic SAS boss Jan Carlzon's convincing statements about spectacular acquisitions of airlines and hotel chains, continued with some sharp figures from the business press about the losses on them, and ended with a regular scolding from a Danish journalist who worried about SAS's downfall and jobs at Kastrup. 

It was not so strange that the Danes were angry.

At that time, SAS was jointly owned by the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish governments, as well as the business community in the three countries.

But in Sweden, the business community was represented by the powerful Wallenberg family, headquartered in Stockholm, and housed a Swedish CEO with greatness madness.  

SAS, which means Scandinavian Airlines, was read by Danish critics instead as "Svenskt Allt Sammen".

Wrestled with the same problem

In fact, it is still the same problem SAS is struggling with now as when Jan Carlzon identified it in connection with aviation deregulation: New competitors can choose to compete with SAS on individual routes and markets.

Then it will be difficult for SAS to assert itself and manage profitability, because it costs to have a large route network worldwide, tailored for Scandinavian travelers.   

However, Jan Carlzon's solution, to buy more airlines and expand into the hotel industry, became an expensive dead end.

And now SAS has ended up in the more accepted crisis concept, the one that American airlines have used for decades: Chapter 11. 

It is about companies in debt trouble being protected from being declared bankrupt by their lenders.

In the meantime, they must get a plan to make the company financially stable, and often also reduce costs.

The business is continued as usual, under the supervision of the bankruptcy court. 

Burned 700 million in one month

It has happened that American airlines have been operating under Chapter 11 for several years.

This has often been followed by a merger with another airline.

Sometimes it has ended in bankruptcy, for example because it has had strikes and failed to reduce the costs of personnel enough for the airline to be assessed as viable. 

In an interview with SVT today, SAS chairman Carsten Dilling calls the pilot strike the worst poison pill you can drive down the throat of an airline.

And of course, the pilot strike costs SEK 100 million a day, for a SAS that is already bleeding.  

But SAS had SEK 7.8 billion in cash just before the strike broke out.

This in itself means that the company has burned 700 million in one month.

But it is still not the case that the SAS strike makes SAS bankrupt.

"Shoulders All Together"

In the worst case, it may be that those who own the plane are a bigger problem than those who fly the plane: the airlines' owners, the leasing companies.

SAS has far too large debts, including to the leasing companies that rent out the plan.

The application for Chapter 11 may be a sign that the negotiations with them are going badly. 

SAS is perhaps right now most correctly read "Debts All Together", quite simply. 

It is the debts that SAS now gets a respite with.

But it is difficult to see that today's decision to apply for bankruptcy protection helps in any other way, rather the opposite: The pilots are likely to be crisis-conscious enough anyway, and potential private bigwigs are likely to pay even more attention to the crisis message that Chapter 11 is anyway.  

A third meaning of SAS is possibly even closer at hand: "Difficult Everything Together".  

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