Air Transport World

Lufthansa's Eser selected as new IATA director general; Eser to replace Knut Hammarskjold January 1; appointment is but one of several sweeping changes at Montreal AGM. (Gunter Eser)

Montreal--After a year's search, the International Air Transport Association has a new director general--but not without a lot of accompanying controversy.

On Jan. 1, 1985, Gunter Eser, until now one of five members of Lufthansa's governing board, will take over as DG from Knut Hammarskjold, the Swedish diplomat who has held the job for 18 years. Eser, 57, is the first airline man to hold the post. He was given a five-year renewable contract, at a salary greatly reduced from that paid Hammarskjold.

For awhile, there were several expectations concerning appointment of the new DG--first, that there actually might be a membership vote on the appointment; second, that the Third World countries would put up a floor fight at IATA's recently completed 40th annual general meeting. But neither event occurred. The new DG's selection was presented to the AGM as a fait accompli. No vote was called for, although objections could have been raised prior to confirmation of Eser. No such objections were raised and Eser was accepted by unanimous consent.

The formal search for a new DG began in September 1983 (ATW, 10/83). A Swiss consultant, Egon Zender, was selected for the task and given a broad mandate to conduct the search worldwide.

Many Europeans didn't want another independent activist as Hammarskjold has been. But they also were not sure whether their chief spokesman should be simply a symbolic head of the organization who turns up to argue IATA's case around the world, or should he also be an authentic administrator. The latter was not Hammarskjolds strong suit. He relied on his staff to fill in the organization details.

One thing the members were determined to alter, however, was the dual designation of DG and chairman of the Executive Committee held by Hammarskjold for the last four years. Historically, the two posts have been separate. The DG, after all, is an employe of the members and the Executive Committee, which runs the organization. …

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