Lars Olofsson is not an old Asia hand. He is not even old. He has been in Beijing for only eight months. And had been GM for SAS Australia/New Zealand for less than two years, when he was appointed General Manager for SAS Greater China.
The 44-year old Swede started his career in SAS’ office in Sydney, where he was assigned the GM for SAS for Australia/New Zealand, when Lars Sandal, at the time Commercial Director of SAS, put him forward as the only local candidate for the position as GM there. And now he has been General Manager for SAS Greater China in Beijing for eight months.
Lars Olofsson’s family is still back in Sydney planning to move to China in August. But Lars is glad that he could have the first time in China alone:
“My family hasn’t moved yet. Which is good because then I had the possibility to really get into the business. And focus 100 percent on the job,” says Lars Olofsson.
As General Manager for SAS Greater China, Lars’ main day-to-day job is to oversee sales and marketing efforts, and basically to achieve as high a sales volume as possible. His current contract is for four years.
More SAS flights to China
SAS has been in China for 21 years and is one of the oldest European airlines in the country. Today, SAS operates only one daily flight between Scandinavia and China which serves Copenhagen and Beijing. Previously, SAS also operated a route between Beijing and Stockholm and between Shanghai and Copenhagen as well.
“When I started here in October I quickly realised we were missing opportunities and soon after I started working on reopening the route Shanghai-Copenhagen, and if everything goes well it will be back in April next year,” says Lars.
Lars Olofsson’s vision of extending SAS China’s activities in the region also includes increasing the number of weekly flights between Scandinavia and Beijing.
The increase of the Scandinavia – China connections can be done in two ways, either by more flights between Copenhagen and Beijing or by reopening of the route to the Swedish capital of Stockholm. But for now the new connection to Shanghai is the top priority:
“Shanghai has a great deal of Scandinavian business infrastructure, and it is very attractive for tourists as well,” says Lars.
Flying to China with tourists, making money on businesspeople
Most of the passengers between Scandinavia and China are tourists. However, it is no secret that SAS mainly focuses on their service for businesspeople and that the major revenue for SAS comes from corporate passengers.
On flights from China to Scandinavia the passengers are a mixed group. One third Scandinavian expats returning home for holiday, one third corporate customers, and one third Chinese visiting Scandinavia. And there is coming more of them, actually the amount of local Chinese passengers travelling from China to Scandinavia doubled last year. Which also made SAS China’s revenue grow exponentially.
Ended conflict about Chinese cabin crew
In the past couple of years SAS has been in conflict with the Scandinavia crew who wouldn’t accept Chinese cabin-crew to work on Chinese working conditions and salaries. But according to Lars Olofsson all problems are now solved in a common agreement between the cabin crew’s union and SAS:
“We are all one happy family once more,” he says.
The common agreement between SAS and the Cabin Attendants Union states that on every single flight between China and Scandinavia there will only be allowed two Chinese cabin-crews, the rest will be Scandinavians.