Over 1,000 SAS pilots could go on strike by late June

Around 1,000 pilots with Scandinavian airline SAS could go on strike later this month after trade unions issued notice of a strike to begin in at least 14 days’ time.

A file photo of a SAS aircraft approaching Stockholm's Arlanda Airport
A file photo of a SAS aircraft approaching Stockholm's Arlanda Airport. Photo: Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

Danish pilots’ trade union Dansk Pilotforening confirmed the strike announcement to news wire Ritzau on Thursday. The Danish union is part of SAS Pilot Group, which represents SAS pilots in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Pilots with the airline in Sweden and Norway have also issued strike notices in line with the Danish announcement.

The collective bargaining agreement by which the pilots’ salary and working terms are determined expired in April. Pilots are currently working under the terms of the expired deal.

READ ALSO: What is a Danish collective bargaining agreement?

But the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement also means that the pilots are not bound by a commitment not to strike. They can therefore legally do so provided they give two weeks’ notice.

The creation of two SAS subsidiaries, SAS Connect and SAS Link, is reported to have generated an obstacle in negotiations over a new collective agreement.

The head of the Danish pilots’ union, Henrik Thyregod, denied on Thursday that the strike had been announced to coincide with SAS’ peak season during the summer. He noted that pilots chose not to strike at Easter, another peak time, when the action was also available to them.

“We have been sitting down with SAS since mid-November to try to find out what they need in terms of flexibility and savings,” Thyregod told Ritzau.

“We have found an overall package that gives a minimum of 25 percent [in savings, ed.]. That’s 500 million Swedish kronor. In return, we need jobs at Link and Connect for our pilots who have (previously) been let go,” he said.

“We have spent seven months on this. Last Friday, SAS told us that they could not guarantee they would not pull the same trick again: in other words, create new companies and make new collective bargaining agreements and take our jobs from us,” he said.

Several SAS employee groups have raised objections to what they see as moves by the airline since the Covid-19 pandemic to resume its business activities through the new subsidiary companies, keeping SAS activity at a level lower than it was at prior to the pandemic.

In a written comment to Ritzau, SAS head of media relations in Denmark Alexandra Lindgren Kaoukji strongly criticised the strike notice.

“The notice from the pilots’ unions is careless and shows a shocking lack of understanding of the critical situation in which SAS finds itself,” Kaoukji wrote.

Sweden’s government said on Tuesday that Stockholm will not bail out SAS amid the company’s ongoing debt struggles, adding that the Swedish state will be reducing its stake in the airline.

READ ALSO: Swedish government rejects bailout for SAS airline

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SAS pilots in Norway, Sweden and Denmark to strike after talks break down

Some 900 pilots from airline SAS in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, are set to hold strike action after the company and the pilots' unions failed to reach an agreement before Monday afternoon's deadline. Some 45,000 passengers could be affected daily.

SAS pilots in Norway, Sweden and Denmark to strike after talks break down

Scandinavian airline SAS and pilots’ unions in Norway, Denmark and Sweden have failed to reach an agreement to prevent a strike, meaning 900 pilots will go on strike this week.

“How on earth is a strike in the busiest week of the last two-and-a-half years going to help us find and attract investors,” SAS chief executive Anko van der Werff told reporters, criticising what he called a “strike culture” among pilots.

SAS and unions had set a deadline of midday Monday to strike a deal. The strike comes after the two parties agreed to extend the deadline for talks several times in the hopes of coming to an agreement.

The pilots are employed by SAS’s parent company, SAS Scandinavia, and announced strike action because they are unsatisfied with their salary and working conditions.

“We deeply regret that our customers are affected by this strike, leading to delays and cancelled flights,” van der Werff said in a statement.

In addition, the pilots are dissatisfied that instead of re-employing old SAS pilots, priority is given to hiring new pilots on cheaper agreements in the two subsidiaries, SAS Link and SAS Connect.

The airline says that 30,000 passengers a day could be affected and 50 percent of all flights could be affected. It is unclear how long the strike will last. Swedish newswire TT reports that as many as 45,000 passengers could be affected. 

Pilots will begin striking once they return to the airport they operate out of. SAS said that it expected all pilots to be out on strike within 24 hours. 

Travellers can check the status of their flight and the likelihood of it being cancelled here. An information centre for affected passengers has been set up at Oslo Gardermoen Airport by SAS and Avinor, which operates Norwegian airports. 

READ MORE: What can SAS passengers do if their flight is affected by pilots’ strike?