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Striking SAS pilots agree to fly back stranded charter passengers

Striking SAS pilots have agreed with the airline that they can fly over the weekend to bring back the thousands of charter flight passengers who would otherwise be left stranded.

Striking SAS pilots agree to fly back stranded charter passengers
A Scandinavian airline SAS Embraer E195 aircraft lands at Kastrup airport on July 4, 202 after the 900 pilots at SAS went on strike. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT/AFP

In a press release published on Thursday, the SAS Pilot Group, an umbrella group for Danish, Norwegian and Swedish pilot unions, said that it had proposed to SAS’s management that some of the 900 pilots on strike would go back to work over the weekend to bring back the charter flight passengers. 

According to the unions, the proposal would require SAS to “withdraw the lockout it has imposed on the pilots”. 

“We assume that SAS will be willing to take its responsibility by not, with the help of other airlines or strike breakers, flying down new passengers to these destinations,” the union wrote.

SAS agreed to the proposal on Friday evening. 

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Thousands of charter passengers from Sweden, Denmark, and Norway risk being stranded this weekend, after pilots went on strike on Monday after delivering them to their destinations last weekend. 

Karin Nyman, SAS’s head of communications, said that the pilots had made their offer after the airline had once again asked pilots not to include pilots flying charter flights in the strike. 

“We have requested an exception for charters right from the start, which is a reasonable request to make,” she said. “Charter passengers find it very difficult to rebook their journeys if they become stranded, and that is something the pilots are still refusing. Now it’s reached the point where they want us to fly down with empty planes and fly back with the passengers.” 

The pilots say they will refuse to fly out new passengers to charter destinations as then there is a risk they, too, will be stranded. 

Last night, 200 Danish airline mechanics, who are members of the Dansk Metal union, launched their own strike in sympathy with the Danish pilots. SAS’s jets need to be serviced every third day, meaning SAS’s remaining jets could be grounded if an agreement is not reached. 

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TRAVEL

SAS pilots approve new collective agreement

93 percent of Danish SAS pilots have approved the agreement that ended strike action last month.

SAS pilots approve new collective agreement

93 percent of the Danish SAS pilots have voted yes to an agreement which ended strike action but also means, among other things, redeployments, longer working weeks and lower wages.

This was announced by Dansk Metal on Saturday morning. The pilots could have voted yes or no on the new collective agreement until midnight on Friday evening.

Pilots in Sweden and Norway have also approved the agreement.

Keld Bækkelund Hansen, head of negotiations at Dansk Metal, said “I am incredibly happy. It is a bit atypical to see that a collective agreement negotiation ends in agreements being made that reduce wages and conditions.”

“So of course it was exciting how our members viewed the new collective agreement. But they could also see that it was a necessity in relation to SAS’s situation,” he added.

The agreement comes after months of tug-of-war that finally saw SAS and the striking pilots reach a collective agreement on 19 July. It helped end a two-week strike.

Part of the background to the conflict between SAS and the pilots was that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, SAS dismissed around half of its pilots.

With the new collective agreement, however, all 450 dismissed pilots will be offered re-employment in the future.

At the same time, SAS pilots will see a 25 percent pay cut, and the limit for the workload is raised from 47 hours to 60 hours per week.

But even with strike action over and a collective agreement supported by pilots, the problems are far from over for SAS, which has suffered major financial losses during the conflict.

Currently, the airline plans to begin a reconstruction in the United States under bankruptcy protection in a so-called Chapter 11 process.

Bankruptcy protection will mean that SAS can continue to operate and pay wages while the process is ongoing.

SAS is seeking financing of up to $700 million- slightly more than DKK 5.1 billion.

SAS press manager Alexandra Lindgren Kaoukji said in a statement: “We are very happy and look forward to continuing our ongoing Chapter 11 process and our work to ensure a strong and sustainable airline for many years to come.The positive result of the vote will help SAS to attract long-term investors while we go through the Chapter 11 process and work further with the SAS Forward plan.”

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