Strike over: Swedish SAS pilots ready to fly again

Scandinavian airline SAS announced Tuesday that pilots have agreed to end a strike which disrupted hundreds of flights involving some 100,000 passengers over five days.

Strike over: Swedish SAS pilots ready to fly again
Photo: SAS/Scanpix

“The parties have agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement and all flights in Sweden will resume as soon as possible,” the company's statement said.

Around 400 pilots based at Stockholm's Arlanda airport went on strike on Friday led by their SPF labour union, which was locked for months in bitter pay negotiations with management.

The deal to end the strike includes a 2.2 percent pay increase according to SAS, which gave no further details about the accord. The pilots had asked for a 3.5 percent raise.

“We had hoped for more, but we succeeded nevertheless to get a new pay scale for young pilots. They now have much better salaries,” Peter Larsson, union head for SAS pilots told the Swedish news agency TT.

Since the start of the strike some 1,000 domestic and European flights have been cancelled.

SAS flights should get back to normal in the next few days, the airline said.

At the Arlanda international airport, SAS had provided big screens showing football matches from the Euro 2016 in France.

Many fans had to abandon plans to travel to the Ireland-Sweden match on Monday at the Stade de France outside Paris — which ended in a 1-1 draw — or had to hastily make alternative arrangements.

SAS had refused the pay increase sought by the pilots' union, saying it would swell the airline's costs by an intolerable 6.5-10 percent.

The damaging strike came during peak travel season, and hit charter groups hard.

SAS, which is 50-percent owned by the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian states, has said it did not calculate how much money it was losing because of the strike, but financial analysts estimated it was costing the airline at least $1.2 million a day.

SAS has come under increasing pressure in recent years from low-cost rivals including Scandinavia-based Norwegian, Europe's third-largest budget airline.

While SAS returned to profit in 2015, it managed net earnings of only 171 million kronor ($20.6 million) in the second quarter of this year despite low fuel costs due to fierce competition and exchange rate swings.




‘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.