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SAS pilots approve new collective agreement

93 percent of Danish SAS pilots have approved the agreement that ended strike action last month.

SAS pilots approve new collective agreement
A SAS plane approaches Arlanda airport in Sweden. Photo: Jonathan NACKSTRAND/AFP

93 percent of the Danish SAS pilots have voted yes to an agreement which ended strike action but also means, among other things, redeployments, longer working weeks and lower wages.

This was announced by Dansk Metal on Saturday morning. The pilots could have voted yes or no on the new collective agreement until midnight on Friday evening.

Pilots in Sweden and Norway have also approved the agreement.

Keld Bækkelund Hansen, head of negotiations at Dansk Metal, said “I am incredibly happy. It is a bit atypical to see that a collective agreement negotiation ends in agreements being made that reduce wages and conditions.”

“So of course it was exciting how our members viewed the new collective agreement. But they could also see that it was a necessity in relation to SAS’s situation,” he added.

The agreement comes after months of tug-of-war that finally saw SAS and the striking pilots reach a collective agreement on 19 July. It helped end a two-week strike.

Part of the background to the conflict between SAS and the pilots was that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, SAS dismissed around half of its pilots.

With the new collective agreement, however, all 450 dismissed pilots will be offered re-employment in the future.

At the same time, SAS pilots will see a 25 percent pay cut, and the limit for the workload is raised from 47 hours to 60 hours per week.

But even with strike action over and a collective agreement supported by pilots, the problems are far from over for SAS, which has suffered major financial losses during the conflict.

Currently, the airline plans to begin a reconstruction in the United States under bankruptcy protection in a so-called Chapter 11 process.

Bankruptcy protection will mean that SAS can continue to operate and pay wages while the process is ongoing.

SAS is seeking financing of up to $700 million- slightly more than DKK 5.1 billion.

SAS press manager Alexandra Lindgren Kaoukji said in a statement: “We are very happy and look forward to continuing our ongoing Chapter 11 process and our work to ensure a strong and sustainable airline for many years to come.The positive result of the vote will help SAS to attract long-term investors while we go through the Chapter 11 process and work further with the SAS Forward plan.”

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TRAIN TRAVEL

‘Demand we’ve never seen’: Why are trains so popular in Sweden right now?

There's high demand on train tickets in Sweden at the moment, especially on long-distance routes like the Malmö-Stockholm line. Why are they so busy, and when will it be easier to travel by train?

'Demand we've never seen': Why are trains so popular in Sweden right now?

“There are a lot of people who want to travel by train,” press communications officer Jonas Olsson from state-owned train company SJ told The Local.

“We saw that after restrictions opened up, there was a demand we’ve never seen before.”

Olsson said that the train company are not sure why demand has increased, but said it was “really great” that demand is so high.

“We’re not sure what the reason is,” he said.

“It could be an increase in interest after the pandemic, it could be the sustainablility aspect, we’ve not really got to the bottom of it.”

Swedes have for a number of years shown interest in more environmentally-friendly modes of transport, with the term flygskam or “flight shame”, a feeling of guilt over the environmental impacts of flying, first gaining popularity in 2018.

Flight chaos hitting Europe’s airports this summer has also had a possible positive effect on train bookings in Sweden this year, as more travellers choose to avoid the queues and travel by train.

Why don’t train companies just put more trains in service?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

“It’s not that easy to just put more trains on the line,” Olsson said.

“Planning trains takes a long time. We have to apply for a permit from the Transport Agency, so we work on a year-long cycle.”

“We’ve also had a difficult summer with regard to our staff situation,” he said, referring to train driver shortages which have plagued the company in recent months.

“So, for a number of reasons, we haven’t been able to have as many trains running as we would like.”

Olsson does not believe that this high demand is going to drop any time soon, despite the fact that most Swedes are now back to work after their summer holidays.

“We think it’s probably going to be the opposite, that demand will keep increasing,” he said.

“So, I don’t think there will be more tickets in the future.”

SJ are taking measures to meet this high demand, he said, despite the company having to plan a year in advance.

“We’ve said we’re going to hire a thousand more staff this year, and that’s because we want more train drivers and more onboard staff so we can put more trains on our routes.”

How can I get hold of a train ticket if I want to travel?

Despite high demand, it’s not impossible to get hold of tickets, even on high-pressure routes like the Malmö to Stockholm line.

“There are still tickets available, if you plan a little bit in advance you can still get tickets,” Olsson said.

“So they’re not completely sold out all the time, but you should keep that in mind – if you’re travelling by train on this route, you should try and plan in advance if you want to get hold of the cheaper tickets.”

“Our ticket model is formed in a way that we have tickets released at short notice – last minute tickets,” Olsson explained.

“The closer you get to departure, the more expensive they get. You can travel today or tomorrow, but then you’ll be paying a lot more so close to departure.”

“There’s really high demand. It’s really great, truly.”

Is there high demand on other routes, or is it just affecting the Malmö-Stockholm line?

“Stockholm to Malmö is one of our major routes,” Olsson said, “so obviously there are a lot of people travelling there and a lot of demand there.”

“There’s more demand on Stockholm-Malmö than, for example, Stockholm-Gothenburg, but we’re seeing more people travelling across the whole network, on all our routes, really.”

Demand for international train travel has also gone up, again possibly as a result of flight cancellations and queues at Europe’s airports.

“We opened a new route in autumn which goes from Stockholm to Hamburg, that also goes through Malmö, it’s a night train going through Europe,” Olsson said.

“We’ve seen a lot of people wanting to take that route. People really want to travel by train, which is really great.”

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