SAS pilots’ strike leaves tens of thousands of travelers stranded
Tens of thousands of air passengers have been left stranded after a pilots’ strike forced Scandinavian airline SAS to cancel most of its flights.
More than 1,200 flights have been canceled for Monday and Tuesday, according to the Reuters news agency, after SAS pilots walked out on Friday when wage talks broke down.
Around 70% of the airline’s flights have been canceled since then, affecting around 280,000 passengers. On Friday, 673 flights were canceled, affecting more than 72,000 passengers, according to SAS.
In total, 667 flights were canceled on Monday, affecting around 61,000 people. A further 49,000 travelers will be affected on Tuesday, when 546 flights are grounded, Reuters reported.
Flights operated by SAS’ partners, which make up about 30% of routes, are unaffected.
Discussions between SAS, pilots’ unions in Sweden and Denmark and NHO, Norway’s employers’ association, have not produced an agreement.
The airline, which is part-owned by the Swedish and Danish governments, has indicated that it is prepared to return to talks but cannot afford to agree to the pilots’ demands.
European airlines, including SAS, have come under pressure from rising fuel costs, volatile currencies and overcapacity.
SAS Chief Executive Rickard Gustafson released a statement Friday on Twitter.
“Despite intensive negotiations and a determination to avoid conflict we have regrettably been unsuccessful. The pilots’ unions have today decided to go on strike. I regret this deeply,” he said.
The SAS Pilot Group, which represents 95% of pilots across the three Scandinavian countries, says it is calling for more predictable working hours, as well as higher wages.
But according to the airline industry’s employer body in Sweden, pilots already earn an average of of 93,000 Swedish kronor (around $9,700) a month and are now demanding an “extreme” increase of 13%.
The SAS Pilots Group has not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment.
The dispute is expected to cost the airline around 60 million to 80 million Swedish kronor ($6.3 million to $8.4 million) a day, according to analysts from Danish bank Sydbank.
If it continues, it could wipe out the company’s net profit for the year in just two weeks, the analysts said.
A statement to passengers on the company’s website reads: “SAS Customer Service apologize for the unusually long waiting times right now and we are doing everything we can to assist our customers.
“SAS is striving to reach a solution as quickly as possible to prevent additional inconveniences for travelers.”
Customers are being urged to check the status of their flight before traveling. The airline has pledged to rearrange travel plans free of charge or offer a full refund.
Nevertheless, many customers have struggled to get through to customer services, instead taking their complaints to social media for a response.
One passenger reported being stranded in Tokyo, with no success in getting through to a call center number.
Another sought a solution to the cancellation of a long-planned family trip:
Meanwhile, others discovered that rebooking and seeking compensation would not be straightforward.
The airline has not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment.