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Monday, May 20, 2024

SAS’ clipped wing delayed hundreds

A minor collision caused by an Oslo-bound Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) flight at the Newark airport serving New York has created more unwelcome problems for the struggling carrier. Not only did it disrupt travel plans for hundreds of passengers both in Norway and the US, it raises safety issues at a time when SAS already is under fire by rivals like Ryanair.

The SAS flight was taxiing towards the runway for take-off when one of its wings collided with the tail of another, smaller aircraft from its Star Alliance partner United Express, reported US network NBC. None of the 234 passengers on board the SAS flight was injured nor were any of the 31 passengers on board the United Express flight, and both could taxi back to the terminal, but neither could fly and had to be taken out of service.

Travel plans spoiled
“Scandinavian just clipped the regional jet here,” reported an air traffic controller in the tower at Newark, where the accident also halted traffic for other airlines and caused more delays. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was also called in to investigate the collision.

SAS officials downplayed the accident, with SAS spokeswoman Elisabeth Manzi telling Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that “it’s not like (the aircraft) were heading towards one another and then it went ‘boom.’ Here the tip of the wing on our aircraft came into contact with the other aircraft.”

More than two-thirds of the SAS passengers on board had to spend the night in New York, though, pending new flight arrangements to Oslo, since only around 70 could be rebooked onto another SAS flight to Copenhagen. All passengers due to fly on the same aircraft, an Airbus A330, from Oslo back to New York on Thursday also had to be rebooked since their flight had to be cancelled.

Bad timing
The collision was especially unfortunate as it occurred during the May 1st long holiday weekend, but also because SAS has been the target lately of attack by rivals like Ryanair and other carriers who feel SAS has received special treatment by government regulators. SAS remains part-owned by the three Scandinavian governments and has received state capital infusions following heavy losses as it struggles to compete with low-cost, low-fare carriers like Ryanair and Norwegian Air.

Norwegian government regulators and politicians have also refused to allow foreign crewing concessions requested by Norwegian Air, so that its new long-haul flights can better compete with lower-cost Asian carriers, and have vowed to crack down on Ryanair after its cabin crews were found to be working under contracts that offered pay and terms of employment far below Norwegian standards. The low pay and demanding working conditions can threaten safety, regulators have claimed, with Ryanair responding that its safety record is among the best in Europe. SAS has been involved in previous accidents and slashing its workforce while Ryanair is hiring, and Ryanair officials think SAS needs more regulatory attention than their airline.

Tormod Sandstø, an SAS spokesman in Oslo, told newspaper VG, meanwhile, that the delays caused by Wednesday’s accident were “unfortunate” but that all passengers would eventually get to their destinations. “We’ll get all our passengers over to the US with flights from Copenhagen and Stockholm,” Sandstø told VG. “Some will also be sent via Frankfurt.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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