Scandinavian airline SAS said on Monday that it would be forced to cancel around half of its planned schedule after contract negotiations with its pilots unions broke down without an agreement.
Pilots have on strike with immediate effect after the two sides failed to reach a compromise on a wide range of issues including pay, conditions and who pilots flying for SAS are actually employed by.
The walkout is the latest setback in the recovery of Europe’s aviation industry from the darkest days of the pandemic.
Strike action has hit operations at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport in recent days, while cabin crew at Ryanair and EasyJet are either threatening or have already staged strikes across Europe.
To make matters worse, Europe’s aviation industry is already struggling with staff shortages that have emboldened disgruntled workers amidst a surge in demand for travel.
SAS said the pilots strike would be “devastating” for its business as it seeks to refinance the ailing carrier after pandemic losses brought the company to the brink.
“Since the notice of conflict was delivered on June 9, mediation between the pilots’ unions and SAS has been held,” the airline said in a statement.
“The strike follows as a consequence of the parties having been unable to reach an
agreement. SAS wishes to continue mediation to be able to reach an agreement and end the strike as soon as possible,” the statement continued.
As the airline started to ace services, SAS chief executive, Anko van der Werff commented; “We deeply regret that our customers are affected by this strike, leading to delays and canceled flights.”
“We know all our passengers have been longing for this summer holiday and have booked travels for themselves and their loved ones. SAS employees are working hard to help our customers that have been affected by this unfortunate situation.”
As many as 300,000 passengers per day will be hit by the strikes and SAS says options to rebook affected customers will be limited by the fact that most of its services were already fully booked.
To keep the airline afloat, SAS has proposed a severe cost cutting plan, alongside refinancing but many stakeholders don’t want to pump additional equity into the business.
SAS had proposed major changes to the pilots contract, including the possibility of hiring flight crew through third party companies.
The pilots unions have refused these demands and instead want wage increases to match the soaring rate of inflation.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.