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SAS pilots stop flying stranded Scandinavian travellers home

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) pilots will stop flying thousands of charter passengers home because they believe the airline has breached its side of the agreement as there are alternative travel options available.

SAS aeroplane
File photo of an SAS aeroplane. Photo: Javad Parsa/NTB/TT

The pilots say SAS has not complied with the agreement they entered into.

According to the agreement, the SAS Pilot Group (SPG), which represents the pilots, had said on Thursday they would break their strike so that SAS could operate a limited number of flights to destinations where there were few or no options for return.

Since then, thousands of charter passengers have been flown home from their destinations.

But this latest news puts an end to that.

“During the weekend, to our great surprise, we have seen that many flights are being deployed to popular and well-trafficked holiday destinations, such as Rhodes, Crete, Larnaca and Split, from where there are already alternative travel options,” SPG said in a press release.

“We find it regrettable that SAS is once again unable to comply with the agreement as intended, and SPG therefore finds itself forced to end the charter departures after the last flight today, 10 July 2022,” SPG stated in the press release.

“Fully booked”
But according to SAS, the alternatives are extremely limited and it’s not as easy to fly the charter passengers home as the pilots’ association says.

“Most things are fully booked. Bringing home an entire aircraft with 180 passengers and believing you will be able to book it on other planes, even if it is Crete or Split, is obviously not going to not work,” SAS communications director Karin Nyman said, Swedish newswire TT reported.

She pointed out that it is usually possible to make exceptions for charter passengers during a strike and believed it “unnecessary” to involve them in the conflict

“It shows a heartlessness. Charter travellers are hit much harder than other travellers as they are more difficult to rebook. Now we have to go back and see what we can do, but unfortunately, it is the customers who are the losers in this,” she added.

But SPG claims that SAS has, for commercial reasons, not tried to reallocate flight capacity to get the charter guests home, which was the aim of the agreement, Danish newswire Ritzau reported.

“Sad and negative”
Charter travel companies Ving and Apollo are both critical of SPG’s announcement.

“It was a sad and negative message for us. Now we are resuming the work of finding our own flight solutions instead,” said Claes Pellvik, communications manager at Ving, TT said.

“You get upset. I think everyone wants the parties to find a solution, but it feels like they are just finding more conflicts,” agreed Sandra Miller Kinge, communications manager at Apollo.

Since last Friday, Ving has received most of the passengers who were due to fly to Sweden, except for about 150 who were planned to fly on Monday and whose return travel is now uncertain.

And Apollo has about 300 passengers who would have flown to Sweden today, but who now have to wait to be told when they can return home.

No basis for real negotiations yet
Earlier today, the Norwegian SAS pilots’ trade union had a so-called status meeting with mediators in Stockholm, head of the union Roger Klokset confirmed to newspaper Verdens Gang (VG).

The meeting was at the initiative of Swedish mediators, and both parties were present, Klokset said.

It was said to have been about “clarifications of position”, but not negotiations.

“We have still not heard anything from SAS management that provides a basis for real negotiations,” he said.

Tonje Sund, communications manager for SAS Norway, said the airline was in contact with the mediators, TT reported.

On Friday, one of the mediators in the pilot conflict, Mats Wilhelm Ruland, said he would probably call the parties soon.

“Of course SAS wants to negotiate,” Sund said.

Around 1,000 SAS pilots from Denmark, Norway and Sweden went on strike on Monday after negotiations between them and SAS on wages and working conditions broke down. They offered to break the strike to fly stranded passengers home.

The airline has said that each day that the strike continues, 30,000 passengers will be affected

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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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