Airline SAS critical of EU 'cautious' approach to consolidation

A SAS Airbus A320 airplane takes off from the airport in Palma de Mallorca

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The head of Scandinavian airline SAS criticised the European Commission on Monday for taking a "cautious" approach to consolidation in the industry at a time when the EU is adding to the cost of flying.

Anko van der Werff, whose long-struggling carrier is the largest in Scandinavia, listed the European Union's flagship scheme to help curb greenhouse gas emissions as among the reasons why the EU "clearly wants flying to be more expensive".

He said the opening by EU antitrust regulators last week of in-depth investigations into Lufthansa's bid for a minority stake in ITA and IAG's bid to buy out Air Europa demonstrated its cautious approach.

SAS is under bankruptcy protection and bringing in new owners as part of a rescue plan. It said last week that it expected to emerge from an amended Chapter 11 plan of reorganization by the end of the first half of 2024.

"I am concerned because if you make flying more expensive, but you don't allow us to actually be a business, that is a problem," Van der Werff told the Airline Economics conference in Dublin. "I am afraid that the European Commission is not really able to make his own mind. They want flights be more expensive, but they seem to be cautious for consolidation, that's not a great recipe."

The Commission is being contacted for comment.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Mark Potter)