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SAS pilots’ strike: What’s the latest? 

Pilot unions from Norway, Denmark and Sweden have agreed to resume talks with SAS. Does this mean we are close to an agreement to end strike action? 

Pictured is an SAS flight taking off in Germany
SAS and pilots' unions appear no closer to returning to the negotiating table as the strike enters its second week. File photo: An SAS plane takes off at dusk from Tegel airport in Berlin. Photo by AFP / Odd Andersen.

Recap: Why are pilots striking? 

Last Monday, unions representing Scandinavian Airline (SAS) pilots from Norway, Sweden and Denmark decided to go on strike, a move the company said would disrupt 30,000 passengers per day. 

Pilots have said they are unhappy with the wages and working conditions offered by SAS

However, the bigger issue for SAS pilots is that instead of re-employing those SAS pilots who were laid off during cutbacks caused by the pandemic, priority is being given to hiring new pilots on cheaper deals in two subsidiaries, SAS Link and SAS Connect. 

The airline has said that the subsidiaries are crucial to the company’s plans to cut costs to stay afloat. 

What is happening on Wednesday? 

Direct negotiations between the three countries’ pilot unions and the airline will restart at the offices of the Swedish National Mediation Office in Stockholm, unions confirmed on Tuesday. This came after the airline’s management issued a press release on Monday in which they offered to make further concessions. 

How long could the strike continue? 

Aviation experts seem to be more positive today, the two Danish analysts telling the Ritzau newswire that the conflict could be solved within days. 

On the day the strike began, aviation experts feared that it wouldn’t be short-lived due to the large gulf between what the pilots and airline wanted. 

The length of the current strike already surpassing the six-day strike pilots called in 2019. 

On Sunday, relations between the two parties deteriorated after SAS pilots decided to stop flying charter passengers home because they believe the airline has breached its side of the agreement.

Pilots had earlier agreed to break the strike to fly stranded charter passengers home if there were no or limited options available. 

Henning Jørgensen, Professor Emeritus in Labour market research at Aalborg University, told Danish newswire Ritzau that the latest decision to not fly stranded travellers home showed a lack of trust between both parties involved in the conflict.

“If you can’t work out how to trust each other, the parties are too far from entering negotiations again. That’s what I see as the main problem: When trust is broken down on both sides, it is difficult to find a solution.”

The professor said that he thought the strike might be forced to an end by politicians. For example, in Norway, the government recently ended an air technician strike as they feared it could affect public health by grounding air ambulances. 

Health leaders from the north of Norway met on Monday afternoon to discuss the consequences of the SAS strike pilot, which health trusts have said made it difficult to get key personnel to work, as flights are often used to cover large distances in the north, public broadcaster NRK reports. 

Have there been any fresh talks? 

On Sunday, the Norwegian SAS pilots’ trade union held a status meeting with mediators in Stockholm, head of the union Roger Klokset confirmed to newspaper Verdens Gang (VG).

The meeting was at the initiative of Swedish mediators, and both parties were present, Klokset said.

Swedish newswire TT reports that both sides are holding daily meetings with mediators but have so far not agreed to resume negotiations.

Jan Levi Skogvang, from union SAS Norge Flygerforening, told NRK on Monday that the parties were still where they were a week ago. 

Ritzau reports that Danish representatives wouldn’t be involved in any talks with the ombudsman or airline on Monday. 

What is SAS doing for affected passengers? 

The airline is offering passengers the opportunity to rebook tickets on SAS-operated flights between July 11th and July 16th 2022, without paying a fee. The ticket can be rebooked within the next 360 days. The offer applies to tickets bought before June 23rd 2022. 

Passengers whose tickets are cancelled will have some rights under EU legislation. These include the right to choose between getting your money back, getting the next available flight, or changing the booking completely for a later date. 

You are also entitled to assistance free of charge, including refreshments, food, accommodation (if you are rebooked to travel the next day), transport, and communication (two telephone calls, for example). This is regardless of the reasons for cancellation.

EU air passenger rights apply to you if your flight is within the EU or Schengen zone, if it arrives in the EU/Schengen zone from outside the bloc and is operated by an EU-based airline, or if it departs from the EU/ Schengen zone.

READ MORE: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

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Struggling Scandinavian carrier SAS gets $700 mn loan

Ailing Scandinavian airline SAS, which filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States in early July, said Sunday it had secured a 700-million-dollar loan.

Struggling Scandinavian carrier SAS gets $700 mn loan

The move follows a crippling 15-day pilot strike, also in July, that cost the carrier between $9 and $12 million a day.

The pilots were protesting against salary cuts demanded by management as part of a restructuring plan aimed at ensuring the survival of the company.

READ ALSO: SAS strike affected 380,000 passengers in July

SAS said it has entered “into a debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing credit agreement for $700 million with funds managed by Apollo Global Management”.

SAS had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States and said the “DIP financing, along with cash generated from the company’s ongoing operations, enables SAS to continue meeting its obligations throughout the chapter 11 process”.

“With this financing, we will have a strong financial position to continue supporting our ongoing operations throughout our voluntary restructuring process in the US,” SAS board chairman Carsten Dilling said.

SAS management announced in February the savings plan to cut costs by 7.5 billion Swedish kronor ($700 million), dubbed “SAS Forward”, which was supplemented in June by a plan to increase capital by nearly one billion euros ($1.04 billion).

Denmark and Sweden are the biggest shareholders with 21.8 percent each.

“We can now focus entirely on accelerating the implementation our SAS FORWARD plan, and to continue our more than 75-year legacy of being the leading airline in Scandinavia.”

SAS employs around 7,000 people, mainly in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. It has suffered a string of losses since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.