SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson To Step Down After 10 Years

President and CEO of Scandinavian airline SAS, Rickard Gustafson, will leave the airline after more than a decade in his role. The executive will depart SAS by July at the latest, taking up the president and CEO position at a ball bearing manufacturer. There’s no word yet on who will replace him.

SAS A320
The sun has set on Gustafson’s time at SAS. Photo: SAS

Gustafson to leave SAS by July

Long time CEO of Scandinavian airline SAS, Rickard Gustafson, has come to the end of his time at the helm of this successful airline. Gustafson was appointed President and CEO of SAS in September 2010 and has had a decade in charge of the company. He replaced Mats Jansson as the boss of the airline.

SAS reports that Gustafson will now enter a transition period, and will officially leave the company on July 1st at the very latest. Chairman Carsten Dilling commented on the move, saying,

“I’m both disappointed and sorry that Rickard wants to move on from his important role in SAS. At the same time on behalf of the Board of SAS, I want to thank Rickard for his fantastic performance during his ten years as President and CEO. Under Rickard’s management SAS has made a remarkable turnaround, from loss to several years of profitable performance. Recently he has led the company with safe hands in the first part of the toughest crisis in the company’s 75 year history, the pandemic.

“Most of all, Rickard will be remembered for his excellent leadership in SAS’s sustainability initiatives, which was the starting point for a new sustainability era in the whole aviation industry.”

Rickard Gustafson
Gustafson has been with the airline for more than a decade. Photo: SAS

Rickard was instrumental in launching the SAS restructuring program 4Excellence Next Generation. This saw the company undertaking deeper cost-cutting initiatives than the first iteration of the program. The first round had seen the airline divest its stakes in other companies, including British Midland, Spanair and airBaltic. This second iteration involved more internal cost-cutting measures, but saw SAS return to profit in that financial year.

As Dilling mentioned, Gustafson has been leading the charge on fleet renewal and sustainability initiatives. In 2018, it placed an order for an additional 50 A320neo aircraft, as it moved towards becoming an all-Airbus airline.

As well as taking on newer, more efficient aircraft, and retiring older types, SAS has also been integrating sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) into its operations. Since December 2018, flights from SFO have been supplied with SAF from Shell and SkyNRG, and it is the airline’s ambition to only use bio jet-fuel on domestic routes by 2030.

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SAS A350
SAS has become a more profitable, sustainable airline under Gustafson’s leadership. Photo: SAS

Gustafson to move to SKF

Rickard Gustafson isn’t ready to retire yet; rather, the experienced executive is making a sideways move to a new company, and new industry. Announced this morning, he will move to SKF (Svenska Kullagerfabriken – Swedish Ball Bearing Factory) as president and CEO. Speaking about his appointment, Gustafson said,

“I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to join SKF, a highly respected company within its industry. SKF has a clearly defined strategic direction, and I look forward to engaging with the organization and further accelerate the ongoing transformation into an even more customer focused, innovative, efficient and sustainable business.”

While it’s a broad move for Gustafson, he comes from a very diverse background. Before joining SAS, he worked in financial services consulting, several senior roles at GE Capital and, most recently, as CEO of the Codan Insurance Group.

Nevertheless, he will be missed in the European aviation scene. Simple Flying wishes Gustafson all the best in his new role, and looks forward to hearing who his replacement will be.