Swedish airline industry warns of bird flu effect

Growing global fear of the deadly bird flu could pose a threat to the airline industry's bottom line, a Swedish industry lobby group said on Friday.

“When global panic over (the respiratory disease) SARS was at its peak, it was really a blow to the airline industry … If there is a similar focus on the bird flu it could have a very negative impact,” Hans Enelius, deputy chief of Swedish airline lobby group Svenskt Flyg, told AFP.

“We haven’t seen a drop in travel yet, but even if the bird flu does not begin spreading from human to human, fear could cause a dramatic decrease in passengers on international flights, especially on flights to Asia,” he added.

According to Swedish public radio, the number of Swedish passengers travelling abroad dropped by seven percent in 2003 when concern over the deadly SARS disease was at its height.

A similar decline now would be devastating for the industry and for the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration (LFV), which runs all public airports in Sweden, according to head of the agency Lars Rekke.

“If flights increase or decline by one percent at LFV airports, that immediately impacts results by 35 to 40 million kronor. If the decline is 10 percent the entire profit disappears, and then some,” Rekke told a radio news program.



‘We agree to disagree’: Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

By lunchtime on Friday, talks between the Scandinavian airline SAS and unions representing striking pilots were still stuck on "difficult issues".

'We agree to disagree': Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

“We agree that we disagree,” Roger Klokset, from the Norwegian pilots’ union, said at lunchtime outside the headquarters of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in Stockholm, where talks are taking place. “We are still working to find a solution, and so long as there is still some point in continuing negotiations, we will do that.” 

Mats Ruland, a mediator for the Norwegian government, said that there were “still several difficult issues which need to be solved”. 

At 1pm on Friday, the two sides took a short break from the talks for lunch, after starting at 9am. On Thursday, they negotiated for 15 hours, breaking off at 1am on Friday morning. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on the SAS plane strike?

Marianne Hernæs, SAS’s negotiator on Friday told journalists she was tired after sitting at the negotiating table long into the night. 

“We need to find a model where we can meet in the middle and which can ensure that we pull in the income that we are dependent on,” she said. 

Klokset said that there was “a good atmosphere” in the talks, and that the unions were sticking together to represent their members.

“I think we’ve been extremely flexible so far. It’s ‘out of this world’,’ said Henrik Thyregod, with the Danish pilots’ union. 

“This could have been solved back in December if SAS had not made unreasonable demands on the pilots,” Klokset added. 

The strike, which is now in its 12th day, has cost SAS up to 130m kronor a day, with 2,550 flights cancelled by Thursday, affecting 270,000 passengers.