Aviation standstill as pilots strike

All domestic and many international flights remain grounded in Sweden on Wednesday after 2,000 members of the Swedish Airline Pilots’ Association (Svensk Pilotförening -SPF) were called out on strike over pay.

Aviation standstill as pilots strike

Up to 25,000 travellers are set to be hit by the strike action as flights across the country suffered delays and cancellations, as unions and employers broke off negotiations over a new collective pay and conditions deal.

“We are going to keep negotiating, and we hope to reach an agreement in the

end, but for the moment our positions are frozen,” said Peter Jeppsson, director general of Flygarbetsgiverna, which represents Swedish air operators.

“All domestic flights and nearly all international flights (operated by Swedish air carriers including SAS) will be affected,” with an estimated 25,000 travellers liable to be affected, Jeppsson told AFP.

Besides working conditions at regional airlines, the dispute also involves a proposal by Avia Express to hire pilots through an interim agency.

The strike action affects Avia Express, Avitrans Nordic, Golden Air and Svenska Direktflyg, whose pilots are on strike for the whole of Wednesday. The remainder of the union’s pilots will strike from 5am to 1pm.

In total around 230 departures expected to be cancelled on Wednesday.

SAS will cancel 107 flights, affecting 13,000 passengers on mostly domestic routes with a couple of thousand also affected by the 5am-1pm shutdown.

Only air ambulance services and a handful of long-haul flights will be unaffected by the walkout.

Flights are continuing to run from Stockholm to Copenhagen and Oslo, and SAS is flying as normal to the USA.

Malmö Aviation has been forced to cancel 30 departures affecting 2,500 people.

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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.