Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has signed a letter of intent (LOI) to sell its ground and cargo handling activities to Swissport International as measures to boost its liquidity continue.

If the deal goes ahead, SAS will transfer 5,000 employees in Scandinavia to Swissport.

SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson describes the deal as “an important achievement” in the cash-strapped carrier’s 4 Excellence NG turnaround plan and a “significant step” toward its outsourcing policy.

SAS’s ground handling operations in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, plus its cargo handling company Spirit, will be transferred to a joint-venture company, which will be 51%-owned by Swissport and 49%-owned by SAS. Swissport will manage the company and continue to provide services to SAS, which will ultimately relinquish full ownership of the joint venture to its new partner.

“This is a perfect strategic fit for both companies, and for Swissport this step into the Scandinavian market is an important part of our defined growth strategy and our worldwide expansion,” Swissport group president Per Utnegaard said.

SAS is forging ahead with other elements of its turnaround plan by sealing an engine sale and leaseback deal and extending its call center outsourcing.

The $120 million engine deal with Willis Lease Finance and Willis Mitsui Engine Support will close at the end of March, delivering much-needed liquidity to the cash-strapped airline.

SAS will also outsource more of its call center activity to customer contact specialist SYKES, which it has partnered with since 2010. SYKES will now handle support for premium customers and EuroBonus members, although SAS will continue to coordinate directly with its corporate customers and agents. The change will be made gradually during 2013 and 2014.