SAS ‘Sympathy Strike’ Adds To Travel Misery In Scandinavia

Around 200 aircraft mechanics have joined the almost 1,000 SAS pilots in strike action over working conditions and corporate restructuring plans at the struggling airline.

“It takes two to tango, but SAS did not want to dance at all, they only wanted conflict. SAS management must bear 100% responsibility,” said Keld Bækkelund Hansen, head of negotiations at Dansk Metal, the trade union joining the industrial action.

SAS Strike Latest: More departures at risk

As SAS aircraft must be serviced every three days, it risks further disruption to flight schedules across Scandinavia. Hundreds of departures have already been canceled since pilots began the strike on Monday.

At present, flights operated by subsidiaries SAS Connect and SAS Link along with most charter flights have been unaffected by the pilots’ strike. This could be set to change, as the striking mechanics service planes used by SAS Connect and on some charter routes.

SAS claims it does have a solution, but there is an undoubted risk to further disruption either during or immediately after the ongoing strike.

Thousands more could be stranded

Charter tour operator Apollo Rejser told DR that more than 12,000 holidaymakers could be left stranded as a result of the additional action.

Apollo sales director Glenn Bisgaard said they are concerned there will not be enough capacity on alternative airlines to bring everyone home. As European charter travel is in the middle of the high season, accommodation will also be an issue in popular destinations such as smaller Greek islands, which can book up months in advance.

Apollo has sent a letter to SAS appealing for a rapid end to the conflict. “Even buses are difficult to get hold of. We simply do not know how to help all stranded travelers get home within a reasonable time,” stated the letter.

SAS has an alternative plan for maintenance

SAS Denmark press manager Alexandra Lindgren Kaoukji said the airline has a solution to ensure SAS Connect aircraft are unaffected by the maintenance strike. “Specifically, SAS will, in order to live up to rules on maintenance every three days, have the planes inspected at other airports where staff are not on strike,” she said.

Of course, whether this fits in with existing schedules remains to be seen, as aircraft are typically maintained overnight.

The solution will still lead to problems later, though. Many aircraft currently grounded because of the pilots’ strike will now not receive regular maintenance, which will cause a delay to getting them back in the air. “When the pilots come back, we cannot fly with them right away,” confirmed Alexandra Lindgren Kaoukji.

Strike seems set to continue

While the mediation efforts are confidential, information provided by both sides seems to indicate there is still a major gap between SAS management and pilots’ unions.

The core of the conflict is about SAS hiring new pilots on cheaper agreements in the two new subsidiaries, SAS Link and SAS Connect. Pilots say this is to avoid an obligation to rehire the approximately 400 pilots laid off during the pandemic. Pilots have offered cost savings of 450 million Swedish kronor ($42 million) but SAS says this is not enough if their cost reduction plan is to succeed.

If you are affected by the SAS strike, the airline maintains a latest status page with information on your rights.

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