Skål International foundation
Our Senior Vice President, Burcin Turkkan, has entrusted me with bringing you monthly installments of the "History of Skål".
To that end, I consider it very important to find out what happened, who was involved, and what motivated them. It all started when the airlines were looking for a partnership with the travel agencies.
It was an unforgettable day, far in the past, when the Skål Club of Paris was founded. As its name indicates, Skål was founded with a 'Nordic' character of a sort; it grew out of a solid friendship that developed during an exploratory plane trip organized by certain airlines for individual qualified representatives from Paris travel agencies. Dr. Wilczek once said that "Skål came about purely by chance".
It came about thanks to Farman Airlines, KLM, and Aerotransport AB. They wished to give a presentation of a new airplane intended for the Amsterdam – Copenhagen – Malmö route, which then served as the 'Scandinavian Air Express', a collaboration between Aerotransport and KLM. Captain Florman, General Director of Aerotransport AB, tasked Hugo Krafft, his agent in Paris, an expert in travel to Sweden and representative for many companies, with inviting fourteen travel agents to come along, in two groups of seven.
The first commercial international flight was organized by Farman Airlines in 1919 – it traveled from Paris to London in a Farman F60. The Swedish company Aerotransport AB was founded on 27 March 1924 by Adrian and Carl Florman. The first planes were two Junkers F13s, and the first flight operated by the company was on 1 June 1924, between Stockholm and Helsinki. Captain Carl Florman, a military pilot who was a pioneer in Swedish commercial aviation, published a book in 1923 about the importance of aviation in armed conflict and spearheaded the Swedish Air Force's creation. In December 1924, he realized his dream of uniting the small Nordic companies with the Scandinavian Union. Finally, in 1946, SAS, as we now know it, was established.
We have heard from a granddaughter of Carl Florman, Annabel, who describes her grandfather in this way: "A well-known pioneer of Swedish aviation who, after having served as a military pilot, founded an aviation company that later became S.A.S.". Carl was the son of Paul Florman, a professor of Medicine, and grandson of Arvid Florman.
All the travel agencies there had a friendly relationship because of the custom that then existed in Paris. All travel agencies were concentrated in the same area, behind the Opera and between Scribe and Auber streets. The travel agents knew each other and saw each other frequently, and as far as can be recalled, apart from a small quarrel that broke out during a billiards match between employees of Kuoni and Bennett, they got along well.
Seven people – four customers, accompanied by Hugo Krafft – were invited on the first flight, which took place on 5 June 1932 in a Fokker FVIIB. The other invitees included a Norwegian, Edgar Bennett; two Americans from American Express; the Director, Dobson, and his Manager, Theodore; three Frenchmen, Colicaud from Canadian Pacific, Rouquerol from Wagons-Lits, and Bratheau from Cooks-Madeleine; and one Brazilian, Georges Ithier from Sprinter. Early in the morning, the journey began in Paris, stopped in Amsterdam for lunch, and continued to Copenhagen, where they were received wonderfully, and was toasted with the typical Scandinavian phrase "Skål!". The travelers were guests of honor with the Secretary of the Tourist Association of Denmark, a man who took a great interest in all things French, and they were attended to very lavishly. In their conversations, they mentioned the difficulties that came with the language barrier. It was then that one of the people present said a word that everyone understood, that always brought smiles, happy faces, and raised glasses, and such that, when people uttered it, it did not matter what language they spoke: "Skål!".
The next day, the travelers continued to Malmö, where Gösta Anderson received them from ABA Airlines, Carl Florman (the promotor of the idea for the trip), and dignitaries from Swedish Railways, the Swedish American Line. Finally, by train, they arrived in Stockholm, where they spent four days, becoming dedicated experts in "Skåling." After the guests were received with traditional Swedish hospitality, friendship and toasting abounded. Each time they raised their glasses in honor of Paris' visitors, the hosts would utter the word "Skål." The invited travel agents gradually learned how to respond, and they discovered that this word encompassed wishes of happiness, health, friendship, and long life.
During their stay, which they enjoyed to-the fullest, the press took an interest in them, relaying reports of an unforgettable trip, a fantastic visit in Stockholm, and the exceptional host, Captain Florman.
After returning to Paris, Krafft remarked upon their newfound friendship and made plans to have an aperitif at the Cintra Bar. They met each other there, drinking Manhattans, in a private room, and there they continued to meet until they were joined by the second, better-known group of invitees, who also frequented the Cintra.
Krafft ended up joining together 34 of his colleagues, all from the neighborhood of Scribe-Auber, who decided to create a club for people working in the tourism field. They decided to call it "Skål" – since this had already become a standard greeting for those who frequented the Cintra, rather than the typical "Hello, old man" in English, or the French "Eh, ça va toujours?".
On 12 June 1932, at 8:40 AM, the second group departed on their journey. A photograph sent to SMYRK in 1974 by Stephen Goerl shows the invitees in front of the airplane, just before their departure: Pierre Soulié from Farman Airlines, Guinnefolleau from W.L.C., Florimond Volckaert from Wagons-Lits on Boulevard des Capucines, Aubier from Thomas Cook & Son, Stephen Goerl from Centropa, Isar from Exprinter, Ahlinder from Scandinavia Air Express, Pearson from Nordisk Voyages, Jules Mohr from KLM. This time, an additional five travel agents were accompanied by representatives of KLM and Farman Airlines, who can be seen towards the photograph's margins. Swedish Railways and the National Tourism Office of Sweden participated as well.