SAS uses Facebook to call out Ryanair’s ‘dirty tricks’

An offer of “free flights” by discount airline Ryanair to executives of Scandinavian airline SAS has erupted into a war of words between the rival airlines on Facebook which has invoked the character of a popular Jim Carrey film.

Earlier in September, Ryanair announced it was offering SAS executives and board members “free tickets on any of Ryanair’s 100 Nordic routes”.

While Ryanair has since rescinded the offer, SAS Director of Communications and Executive VP, Claus Sonberg, remained eager to take up Ryanair’s challenge to “experience how a successful airline operates.”

On Monday, Sonberg boarde a Ryanair flight from the Norwegian capital of Oslo bound for London’s Stansted airport to, as he put it on the SAS Facebook page, “check out how Ryanair really works.”

Throughout the day, as Sonberg published updates of his journey on the SAS Facebook page, he noted a number of unpleasant “surprises” such as charges for baggage and priority boarding.

When all was said and done, Ryanair’s ‘budget’ flight came to 1564 Norwegian kronor ($264), only 354 kronor cheaper than the equivalent SAS flight, an outcome which soured Sonberg on the Ryanair experience.

“A saving of 354NOK does not equate well to all the extra hours of travelling when flying with Ryanair. I had to get up before 6am Oslo time to be in London for a meeting at 1pm, local time,” he wrote on Facebook.

On several occasions, however, Sonberg’s Facebook reports prompted comments which questioned the SAS VP’s account of the trip and directed readers to statements by Ryanair.

The poster of the provocative comments called himself Fletcher Reed, the character played by Jim Carrey in the film ‘Liar, Liar’.

In one comment, ‘Fletcher’ claimed that, on the day that Sonberg’s flight was booked, the SAS price for a flight from Oslo to London had actually reached a whopping 3,344 Norwegian kronor, compared with Ryanair’s modest fee of 970 kronor.

In another, he quoted an entire Ryanair press release, in which spokesperson Stephen McNamara stated that Sonberg had “saved a fortune” by flying with the Irish airline.

Later on Monday, SAS issued a statement which it linked to from its Facebook page accusing Ryanair of employing a “dirty-trick style” in issuing three inaccurate statements about SAS in three months.

Despite the insinuation by SAS that the mysterious Facebook character was planted by the discount Irish airline, Ryanair’s McNamara denies any involvement in the prank.

“I’m sure SAS assumes anyone who says anything positive about Ryanair must be working for the company,” he told The Local on Monday, calling SAS’s “high-price model” a failure.

The spat is just the latest in a long-running feud between the two rivals.

Back in July, claims by Ryanair that it had the best record of punctuality, prompted an SAS spokesperson to refer to the company as the “clowns of the airways”.

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‘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.