SAS and its pilots finally end strike

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It was likely to take a few days before Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) would be flying on schedule again, but some flights were at least due to start taking off on Friday. SAS pilots ended their strike late Thursday night after finally accepting a new three-year deal.

SAS flights would start taking off again from Friday, but cancellations and delays were expected heading into the weekend after a week-long strike by the airline’s pilots. PHOTO: SAS

Their reported demand for a 13 percent pay raise was replaced with raises of 3.5 percent this year, 3 percent next year and 4 percent in 2021. That results in an 11 percent pay raise over the term of their new contract.

More pilots were granted more predictable work schedules, with around 60 percent of them now able to know longer in advance when they’ll be flying. New agreements were also struck regarding seniority and career development.

Both sides claimed to be satisfied after mediation finally ended after more than 30 hours of talks in overtime. An announcement of a settlement was repeatedly delayed throughout the late afternoon and evening on Thursday, until SAS chief executive Rickard Gustafson emerged at a press conference in Stockholm at 11 pm.

“I can with relief inform customers and colleagues that we can put this conflict behind us,” Gustafson said. “We have signed a collective bargaining agreement with our four pilot unions.”

All four unions covering SAS pilots in Norway, Sweden and Denmark plus an umbrella organization were represented at the marathon mediation session that was held in Oslo, with Norway’s state mediator in charge of hammering out a deal. SAS also had a delegation from all three countries as they tried to end the crippling strike that grounded around 4,000 flights and upset travel plans for more than 300,000 passengers since last Friday morning.

The strike was also financially threatening for SAS, which teetered on the brink of bankruptcy just a few years ago. It has since returned to profitability, but with the strike costing the airline as much as NOK 100 million per day, it threatened to wipe out much of last year’s positive result.

Analysts said it now would take at least another day or two before SAS flights were running on time. “It takes between 24 and 48 hours for all the aircraft and their crews to get into place after such a major strike as this has been,” Hans Jørgen Elnæs of consulting firm Winair told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Thursday.

SAS had also furloughed around 1,000 employees, most of them cabin crew, on Tuesday, so they now needed to be called back in to work. “There will still be many flight cancellations after this,” Elnæs said, indicating that SAS traffic would likely continue to be disrupted heading into the weekend.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund