MIAMI – In a sudden leadership change in Latin America, Avianca (AV) announced that its Chief Executive Officer, Anko van der Werff, had resigned to become the new Chief Executive Officer of SAS.

He will be joining SAS by July, marking the start of a new journey to the experienced executive’s long resume. Van der Werf has worked in management positions for KLM, Qatar Airways, Aeromexico, and most recently, AV. Adrian Neuhauser, an experienced AV executive, has taken over the role of Chief Executive. 

Van der Werff was appointed as a member of the Avianca Board of Directors and will hold the position of an advisor to ensure a smooth transition. Neuhauser’s experience in helping to oversee the airline’s corporate restructuring process will give him insight into decision making for the airline’s future.

Photo: John Leivaditis/Airways

Van der Werff’s Avianca

Anko Van der Werff served a short tenure at AV, being given the difficult task of leading the company through a Chapter 11 restructuring and the COVID-19 crisis.

The airline announced that it had entered Chapter 11 in May of 2020, following sudden and harsh global lockdowns. At the time, the airline had lost 80% of its revenue, leading to the airline needing government support. 

Under van der Werff’s leadership, the airline presented a COVID-19 response plan, looking to retain operations to create a strong foundation for the airline post-COVID.

Additionally, the plan highlighted the need to preserve jobs where possible, with the airline at the time employing more than 21,000 employees. However, leadership at AV came under fire last year, taking bonuses of US $6m five days before the airline filed for Chapter 11. 

In defence of the bonuses, AV stated at the time, “Avianca defended the bonuses, saying they were necessary “as an incentive for the company’s management team to continue to provide services to Avianca.”

Photo: Otto Kirchof/Airways

Executive’s Comments

Commenting on his new position, Adrian Neuhauser said, “I am honored to lead this incredible company and am very excited to be working together with the rest of the Avianca team, as we continue to meet the travel needs of our valued customers.” (Translated)

Roberto Kriete, President of the Board of Directors of Avianca, commented, “Adrian has in-depth knowledge of Avianca, a proven track record in overseeing the Company’s corporate restructuring, and more than two decades of experience in the financial industry and working with transportation companies, all of which make him uniquely qualified to lead Avianca.” (Translated)

Featured Image: IATA