SAS Reveals Its New CEO As Avianca’s Former Leader

SAS has appointed a new CEO. Dutch native Anko van der Werff will leave his current role as leader of Avianca and join the triple Scandinavian flag carrier this July to help see the airline through the most severe crisis aviation has ever faced. This is the first time that a non-Scandinavian native will act as CEO of the carrier.

SAS A320neo
SAS Scandinavian Airlines is bringing in Dutch native Anko Van der Werff to replace Rickard Gustafson as CEO. Photo: Getty Images

SAS will come out stronger

On Wednesday, SAS Scandinavian Airlines revealed the name of its new President and Chief Executive Officer. Anko van der Werff, CEO of Avianca since June 2019 and previously with Aeroméxico, Qatar Airways, and Air France-KLM, will join the carrier from July 15th at the latest.

“I am very honored to be the new CEO of SAS. SAS is the leading carrier of Scandinavia with a strong brand and a proud aviation history which has been of great importance for connecting the region domestically and with the rest of the world,” van der Werff said.

“It is no secret that COVID-19 has impacted the entire aviation industry, but SAS has a strong foundation to build upon and I am sure that by working together between all stakeholders, SAS will come out stronger,” he continued.

Van der Werff further added that he was looking forward to continuing the airline’s sustainability journey which he believes will be instrumental to transforming aviation.

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Lessons learned in Latin America

Anko van der Werff has a long career with airlines across the globe. Currently CEO of the Avianca Group, he is no stranger to crises. Taking the airline through a restructuring process upon his arrival, Van der Werff called it ‘back to basics’ and focused on shedding what he saw as ‘nonsensical flying’ across the region.

Unfortunately, just as the airline began to see a positive impact from the changes, with strong results and momentum in January and February 2020, COVID hit. Avianca filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 in May last year as the first major carrier to do so due to the pandemic.

Succeeding Van der Werff at Avianca will be the airline’s current President, Adrian Neuhauser, who also joined the carrier in 2019 as Chief Financial Officer.

The incoming CEO is leaving Avianca after two years in post. Photo: Getty Images.

A return to Europe

Prior to joining Avianca to help turn the airline around two years ago, van der Werff spent five years with Aeroméxico as Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. Before that, he was with Qatar Airways for four years in various roles, including Senior Vice President for Pricing and Revenue Management.

However, he began his airline career with Air France-KLM, for which he spent four years managing regional markets in Stockholm. Mr van der Werff says he is looking forward to returning to Scandinavia, of which he has very fond memories and where his two oldest children were born.

SAS Reveals Its New CEO As Avianca’s Former Leader
Van der Werff is replacing Rickard Gustafson, who is leaving the airline after ten years. Photo: SAS

Extensive process to replace Gustafson

This is the first time that a non-Scandinavian native will lead SAS. Rickard Gustafson, who announced his departure in January this year, will leave his post in late May or early June. Karl Sandlund, the airline’s Chief Commercial Officer, will take over as interim President and CEO before Van der Werff arrives in Stockholm.

 “After an extensive, thorough, and intense process, I have been excited to see the comprehensive field of top talented candidates from the global airline industry that SAS as a brand is attracting –  further strengthened by a large interest in SAS’ ambitious efforts within sustainability. Therefore, I’m proud that we today can announce Anko van der Werff as new CEO for SAS AB,”  said Carsten Dilling, Chairman of SAS Scandinavian Airlines.

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