SAS paves way for lay-offs due to ash

Scandinavian airline SAS has indicated it may be forced to temporarily lay-off thousands of staff as a cloud of volcanic ash continues to keep its planes on the ground. Workers in Norway have received notice that they could be taken off duty on Monday.

SAS paves way for lay-offs due to ash

“We have today warned 2,500 employees there could be temporary lay-offs. A final decision will be made on Monday,” SAS spokeswoman Elisabeth Manzy told AFP late Friday.

Only employees in Norway had received the warning because Norwegian law requires two days of advanced notice in these cases, she said, adding that workers in Sweden and Denmark would be notified later since laws there were different.

“We can’t fly. Our entire fleet is on the ground … There is nothing for them to do,” Manzy explained.

All SAS flights in the company’s hub cities Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm have been cancelled until Saturday at 1500 GMT at the earliest, “but everything could still be closed on Monday,” she said.

All employees hit by the temporary lay-off would get their job back once flights were back in the air, Manzy said.

The lay-offs “will last only as long as this extraordinary situation is happening,” she said.

SAS cancelled 742 flights on Friday, grounding all but a few flights in the north of Norway, where services restarted at a very slow pace.

The company has refused to say how much the volcano blast had cost it but according to Danish, a specialised air travel news site, SAS was losing around 120 million Danish kroner ($22 million) per day.

Millions of passengers remained stranded across Europe after a huge cloud of ash from a volcano eruption that began in Iceland on Wednesday swept across Europe, grounding thousands of flights in the biggest air travel shutdown since World War II.

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Sweden stops flights to Iran over safety concerns

Sweden on Friday stopped direct flights to Iran, citing "unclarity" around the crash of a Ukrainian passenger plane earlier this week where 176 people were killed.

Sweden stops flights to Iran over safety concerns

The Swedish Transport Agency said in a statement on Friday that it decided to temporarily withdraw the traffic permit for Iran Air for flights between Sweden and Iran, citing “unclarity around the accident and safety for civilian air traffic.”

Iran Air is the only airline that flies directly between Sweden and Iran.

“We understand that this could create problems for travellers.

But the passengers' safety is paramount and that's why we have decided to temporarily halt the flights,” Gunnar Ljungberg, head of sea and air traffic at The Swedish Transport Agency, said in a statement.

All 176 people on board died when the Ukrainian International Airlines plane went down near Tehran on Wednesday, shortly after Iran launched missiles at US forces in Iraq over the killing of a top Iranian general.

American, British and Canadian officials say intelligence sources indicate Iran shot down the plane, perhaps unintentionally, but this has been denied by Tehran.

The Swedish foreign ministry on Friday confirmed that 17 of the victims were “domiciled” in Sweden, with seven being citizens and 10 registered residents.

“We demand that the incident is investigated speedily, impartially and transparently,” Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde wrote on Twitter.

While Iran Air's flights to Sweden were halted by a government agency, other airlines have voluntarily decided to halt flights to Iran.

Austrian Airlines announced late Thursday that its flight to Tehran that day was ordered to return to Vienna after a stopover in Sofia.

German group Lufthansa said Friday it was cancelling all flights to and from Tehran until January 20 “due to the unclear security situation for the airspace around Tehran airport”.