As SAS pilots went on strike today in Norway, Sweden and Denmark some 170,000 passengers across Europe were left dangling and trying to rebook their domestic, European and long-haul flights. SAS cancelled some 70 percent of their scheduled flights for Friday and Saturday.
All members of the pilot unions have been called out on strike, which means that most domestic, European and all long-haul flights have been canceled. The strike does not include flights operated by SAS partners, such as SAS Ireland, which make up approximately 30% of all departures. The strike follows a breakdown in talks between the airline and pilots unions over wage hikes. Negotiations have been held in all three countries since March and with the support of external mediators in the final stages.
“It is deeply regretful that the pilots strike will have a negative impact on our customers. SAS is prepared to continue to negotiate, but if the requirements were to be met, they would have very negative consequences for the company. Nonetheless, the pilot associations have chosen conflict. Our first priority now is to take care of our passengers and at this moment in time, all SAS employees are doing everything they can to help customers affected,” says Karin Nyman, Director of Communications at SAS.
Customers who have a flight booked, are advised to check if their flight is impacted by the strike at www.flysas.com/en/disruptions.
As of today, some 673 flights have been cancelled, affecting more than 72,000 passengers. SAS has been sending updates via SMS and email to those passengers affected, as well as updating a dedicated page on its website.
Reuters reports that most flights at regional rival Norwegian Air were sold out on Friday and ticket prices on its website were soaring.
SAS has been hit by a number of challenges in recent years. The carrier is in the midst of renewing an aging fleet that is running out of time after years of spending cuts and cost-cutting measures as it struggled to keep up in the face of competition from such budget carriers as Norwegian Air Shuttle and Ryanair. The pilots strike may cost the airline as much as $8 million in losses.
Profitability for the airline has been further hit by rising fuel costs as well as continued overcapacity and currency volatility among European airlines and a global pilot shortage. That shortage, in this instance, does much to bolster bargaining power for pilots.
While SAS was close to bankruptcy in 2012, drastic cost-cutting measured help to turn the airline around and It has posted a net profit in each of the last four years.