SAS sputters back to life after five-day strike

After five days of turmoil most SAS flights are expected to run on schedule on Wednesday - but some passengers will remain grounded in Sweden.

SAS sputters back to life after five-day strike
SAS plane prepares for landing at Arlanda Airport, Stockholm. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The strike came to end on Tuesday afternoon after the Swedish pilots’ union SPF agreed to a 2.2-percent wage hike, along with an improved wage scale for young pilots. 

SAS expects full service to resume on Thursday. 

“There are approximately 340 flights running today but around 50 departures are cancelled,” SAS spokeswoman Anna Mansell told the TT newswire. 

She advises any passenger planning to fly on Wednesday to check the company’s website for a list of cancelled flights

Some 100,000 passengers were hit by the strike after negotiations broke down between the pilot union and SAS. 

The pilots had wanted a 3.5-percent rise, and airline industry analyst Mats Hyttinger described their strike as “not much of a success”.

“It’s costly in terms of reputation, both for the airline and the pilots. It’s questionable whether it was worth it.” 

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.