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SAS says pilot strike in Scandinavia could sink airline

The pilots' strike at Scandinavian airline SAS is costing between $9.0 and $12 million a day and threatens the survival of the already financially troubled company, SAS said on Thursday.

An SAS plane approaches Arlanda airport
The current pilot strike in Denmark, Sweden and Norway could sink SAS, the company has warned. File photo: A SAS plane approaches Arlanda airport, north of Stockholm. Photo by Jonathan Naclstrand / AFP.

The stoppage, which is now in its tenth day, has already cost roughly 1.0 to 1.3 billion Swedish kronor ($94 million to $123 million), the company said.

Negotiations between unions and management have so far failed to produce a solution.The airline said more than 2,500 flights have had to be cancelled already, affecting 270,000 passengers.

SAS announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States on July 5, the day after nearly 1,000 of its pilots walked off the job.

“The strike is putting the success of the Chapter 11 process and, ultimately, the survival of the company at stake,” SAS chief executive Anko van der Werff said.

The CEO said the strike also “has a severe impact on our possibilities to succeed with SAS Forward”, the cost-saving programme launched by the ailing company in February.

SAS, which employs nearly 7,000 people, mainly in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, is seeking to raise about 9.5 billion kronor in fresh capital.

The airline said it “had sufficient liquidity to meet its business obligations in the near term without accessing new forms of capital” but warned cash reserves “will erode very quickly in the face of a continuing pilot strike”.

The pilots walked out last week after negotiations broke down. They are protesting against salary cuts demanded by management as part of a restructuring plan aimed at ensuring the survival of the company, and the firm’s decision not to re-hire pilots laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The summer is shaping up to be difficult overall for European airlines and airports, who are faced with staff shortages that is affecting air traffic.

After widespread job losses linked to Covid-19, airlines and airports are struggling to recruit new staff in many countries.

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SAS

SAS strike affected 380,000 passengers in July

More than 3,700 flights where cancelled and 380,000 passengers where affected by the 15-day strike which hit Scandinavia's SAS airline last month, the company has revealed.

SAS strike affected 380,000 passengers in July

“We sincerely apologize to our customers who were affected by the July strike,” Anko van der Werff, the company’s chief executive, said in a press release. “We are happy operations returned to normality again allowing us to start regaining our customers’ trust.”

According to the release, 1.3 million passengers travelled with the airline in July, which was still a 23 percent increase on the same month last year, when Covid-19 restrictions were still reducing tourism levels.

“In comparison with last month, the total number of passengers decreased with 32 percent and capacity was decreased by 23 percent, which was a result from the 15-day pilot strike,” the release read. 

Pilot unions in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, went on strike for 15 days last month over pay, conditions, and the company’s refusal to rehire pilots laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic on the same terms as before. 

The strike, which cost the airline between €9m and €12m a day, was ended on July 19th, after which it took several days to get flights back to normal

Van der Werff said company said it would now continue putting in place its restructuring plan, SAS FORWARD, and push ahead with restructuring in the US, where the company has filed for Chapter 11. 

He said these would both “accelerate the transformation process that will lead to a financially stable airline, that will be able to deliver the service our customers are expecting”. 

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