In a summer that has already proved nightmarish for travelers across Europe, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) will now add to that frustration by canceling up to half of its scheduled flights because of a pilot strike.
The failure to agree a deal with the pilots’ unions will see approximately 30,000 passengers affected every day on domestic and international flights in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. A total of 900 pilots will be withdrawn from work across Scandinavia, with up to half of those in Norway.
It’s not yet clear exactly which SAS departures will be canceled, but affected passengers will be contacted by SMS. Flights operated by the relatively new subsidiaries SAS Link and SAS Connect are not affected. Flights operated on a “wet lease” basis by Air Baltic, CityJet and XFLY are also unaffected.
It’s also not at all clear how long the strike will last, as mediation efforts look set to continue.
SAS in big trouble
In a statement confirming the strike, SAS said the move from the pilots’ unions is “reckless” and puts the future of the company at stake. SAS CEO Anko van der Werff said the unions are demonstrating a “shockingly low understanding of the critical situation that SAS is in.”
Hit hard by the pandemic, SAS has pinned its survival hopes on a comprehensive restructuring plan. Named SAS Forward, the plan calls for substantial cost-cutting, renegotiation of collective agreements, the conversion of debt into shares and the raising of new capital.
The strike had been on the cards for almost a month with lengthy discussions and then mediation efforts extended several times. Despite this, the parties were unable to reach an agreement. SAS stated it wants to continue mediation and reach an agreement to end the strike “as soon as possible.”
The conflict explained
The conflict is not about pay, rather the creation of two staffing companies as part of a corporate restructuring. During the pandemic, more than 500 pilots were laid off. SAS created two new subsidiaries that will take over aircraft and employ new pilots. Pilots laid off during the pandemic have complained that by doing this, SAS is circumventing its obligations to re-employ previously dismissed pilots.
According to the pilots’ unions, pilots have agreed to savings measures of up to 25%, but want assurances that their members will be first in line for jobs with the new subsidiaries SAS Link and SAS Connect.
What to do if you’re affected
According to the airline, affected customers will be contacted by SMS. Their is also a flight status webpage, which may already indicate if your flight is likely to be cancelled.
Unfortunately for passengers, July is peak season for flights in Scandinavia. This means the ability for passengers to be rebooked on alternate flights is going to be limited.
A SAS statement said that if passengers cannot be accommodated on alternative flights, they can obtain a refund, rebook to a later date or arrange alternative means of travel and then seek reimbursement from SAS.