SAS flights cancelled for Sunday as strike hits second day

A further 587 SAS flights have been cancelled for Sunday as the airline's pilot union still refuses to come back to the negotiating table.

SAS flights cancelled for Sunday as strike hits second day
A noticeboard at Stockholm's Arlanda airport showing SAS cancelled flights. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
The cancelled flights on Sunday will affect around 64,000 passengers, adding to the estimated 34,000 passengers whose flights were already cancelled on Saturday. 
“We want nothing more than that the parties return to negotiations as soon as possible so that no more passengers are hit,” the company's press chief Freja Annamatz told Sweden's TT newswire. 
“First and foremost, we apologize,” the company's Norwegian media head Knut Morten Johansen told state broadcaster NRK. “We made a decisive move yesterday by pre-canceling, so that there was more predictability today. I think we had a less chaotic situation at the airports than would otherwise have been the case.”
The Scandinavian airline has been forced to ground around 70 percent of flights after 1,400 pilots went on strike over pay and conditions. The strike is estimated to be costing the company between 60m and 80m Swedish kronor a day. 
“We must reach an agreement for the sake of our customers,” SAS chief executive Rickard Gustafson told the Swedish newswire TT on Friday.
“It's pretty clear that it doesn't exactly improve our reputation when we're not delivering what we promised customers.”
Rawaz Nermany, chairman of the Swedish Pilot's Union, told The Local that he and his union would not restart talks unless it was offered clear concessions from the company. 
“Up until this moment they haven't been willing to discuss any of our demands, and that's not a renegotiation is it? Just sitting there looking out of the window with your arms folded,” he said. “They have to shift their position if there's going to be any constructive dialogue.” 
Gustafson said he was ready to make more concessions to the pilots, but not to the extent that SAS becomes uncompetitive. “We have to make sure that the company remains competitive in the long term, otherwise it's not going to work.” 

Passengers booked on flights for Sunday and Monday that have yet to be cancelled are being offered compensation if they cancel them because of the uncertainty. The strike affects all domestic flights, many flights within Europe and some long-distance flights. 
The company has a continuously updated page showing flights which are still expected to fly. The company has set up a dedicated page on its website carrying the latest information on the strikes. 
Nermany said he and his members were not willing to put any time limits on how long the strike might last, meaning the strikes could potentially continue into and perhaps beyond next week. 
“We don't want to focus on how long the strikes can continue,” he said. “We are firm in our demands and we expect to see some movement from the company before we sit down at the negotiating table again.” 

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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.