Airline passengers may encounter more turbulence from Thursday if Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and its pilots fail to agree on terms for their holidays, just as the busy summer holiday season is getting underway. SAS was hoping for a settlement by the strike deadline at midnight on Wednesday.
At issue is whether SAS can have greater freedom over deciding when its pilots can take off on holiday themselves. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported Tuesday that the airline often finds itself with six aircraft designated for both short- and long-haul routes parked on the tarmac, right in the middle of the July summer holiday season in Norway, because too many pilots have taken off on their own summer holidays.
“The airline sees a need to have more flexibility in handling seasonal variations,” Knut-Morten Johansen, information director for SAS, told DN.
It’s mostly SAS’ Norwegian pilots who are threatening to strike from Thursday, since the airline’s Danish pilots are in the middle of a two-year contract struck last year and negotiations with SAS’ Swedish pilots run until Friday.
The union representing SAS’ roughly 430 pilots, SAS Norge Pilotforening (SNP), finds it difficult to accept SAS’ request that it can disregard built-up rights tied to holiday time and at least one weekend off per month. “We’re basically shift workers and already have a demanding work schedule,” Svein Duvsete of SNP, told DN. “We also need holiday time.”
SNP and employers’ organization Norsk Cockpitforbund were meeting with a state mediator on Tuesday and Wednesday in efforts to avert a strike. Johansen of SAS said that a strike would pull nearly all of the more than 400 Norwegian pilots off the job, disrupting major portions of SAS’ route system within Norway and on flights from Norway.
That would upset travel plans for tens of thousands of passengers. SAS’ long-distance routes, however, are expected to run as scheduled.