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SAS passengers stranded as strike hits

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13:50 CEST+02:00
SAS Scandinavian Airlines has cancelled most domestic and international flights in and out of Sweden on Friday after cabin crew went on strike. Unions have failed to agree new pay and conditions with the airline.

The strike, which involves 800 cabin crew, has left thousands of travellers stranded. The airline has promised refunds or rebooking to passengers whose flights are cancelled. Stranded travellers will have to pay for their own hotels up front, although an SAS spokeswoman told Aftonbladet that hotel costs incurred due to the strike would be reimbursed.

Fraser Nelson, whose flight from London to Stockholm on Friday has been cancelled, was critical of SAS's handling of the strike.

"I'd looked forward to my bank holiday with my family in Sweden for months. What bugs me is nobody in SAS called or emailed me to tell me about this strike.

"I called their phoneline to find I'm number 32nd in the queue and it wasn't moving. Strikes are bad, but the failure to deal with the predictable aftermath is worse. The head of SAS says he's now second only to Alitalia for strikes in Europe. That's why I'll reluctantly have to look to BA from now," he told The Local.

Morty McCarthy was forced to pay an extra 1,500 kronor ($215) to fly with a rival airline after his SAS flight to London was cancelled due to the strike. He too has been less than impressed with the airline's treatment of its customers.

"I felt that SAS handled the situation really badly and I think the least they could have done was inform me of the possible strike situation in advance so I could have had the opportunity to rebook earlier with another company.

"However SAS didn't even send a mail warning me of the possible strike. Instead I found out in the Swedish newspapers on Wednesday," he told The Local.

For two days he tried in vain to contact SAS to discuss an appropriate course of action.

"I finally spoke to customer services this morning and they offered me a refund.

"When I asked them why they hadn't informed me I was told in a nutshell that SAS is a big international company and they have too many customers to keep track of!"

The strike action follows the airline's failure to reach agreement with the HTF union. SAS had offered a 10.2 percent pay rise over three years, but had rejected demands for better terms and conditions. Negotiations continued on Thursday night, but broke up at 2am after it became clear that some distance remained between the two sides.

HTF negotiator Tommy Mases said the offer put on the table by SAS was almost identical to one previously rejected by the union "with just a few small adjustments".

"We felt that there was no reason at all to keep negotiating," he said.

As planes stood still on Friday morning, the two sides seemed to have reached stalemate. Andris Zvejnieks, communications director for SAS Sweden said no new initiatives were planned by the company's negotiators.

"HTF must respect the market rate, which is 10.2 percent over three years. Without that, SAS cannot offer any solutions," he said.

HTF said the strike was not about pay but about breaks, free weekends and other conditions. SAS says complying with the union's demands would lead to costs equivalent to a pay rise of 25 percent a year.

SAS flights to the United States and Asia are among those still flying, as are flights to London City Airport. A few flights to European cities and a small number of domestic flights were also operating as normal.

Unions have implied that the strike could continue for some time. Spokespeople have said, however, that they will not strike between 11th June and 12th August, the main holiday period.

Latest flight details from SAS

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