The Scandinavian airline SAS says it has been forced to cancel 3,306 flights since a pilots strike started on Friday. The cancellations equal around 70% of the airline’s schedule and have so far disrupted the travel plans of around 326,917 passengers. SAS is currently offering passengers the ability to cancel their ticket for a full refund without charge or to rebook free of charge.
“I am deeply concerned that the pilot strike hasn’t been resolved and that it is continuing to affect our customers,” commented Rickard Gustafson, the president and chief executive of SAS said in a statement released yesterday afternoon.
“The demands made by the pilots’ unions entail significant cost increases for SAS that would threaten the company’s long-term competitiveness and consequently, the jobs of all SAS’ employees,” Gustafson continued.
He claims the airline is willing to continue negotiations with pilots unions in Denmark, Sweden and Norway but that the unions haven’t yet said what their ultimate demands are. Gustafson confirmed that since the strike started on Friday, there have been no negotiations and there are none currently planned either.
Around 1,400 pilots are currently on strike over a dispute about working conditions and rosters – the pilots say they want fixed schedules that would give them greater predictability over their work/life balance. At present, SAS pilots worked variable shifts that change month by month.
What really seems to have infuriated the pilots though, is a decision by SAS to remove all existing agreements like seniority and promotion opportunities before entering negotiations.
“It is incomprehensible why SAS removes well-functioning agreements that have contributed to creating a successful SAS that has delivered profits,” a pilot spokesperson said of the airline’s stance.
Around 30% of flights will go ahead as scheduled – these are operated by so-called ‘SAS Partners’ with pilots on separately negotiated contracts. The rival airline, Norwegian today announced plans to bolster its own schedule with additional flights throughout Scandinavia owing to increased demand because of the SAS pilot strike.