April 25, 2019 / 7:22 PM / 6 months ago

SAS cancels many flights as pilots in Sweden go on strike

STOCKHOLM/COPENHAGEN/OSLO (Reuters) - SAS said on Friday many of its domestic, European and long-haul flights have been cancelled as Swedish pilots at the airline went on a strike after rejecting mediators’ bid, affecting thousands of travellers.

FILE PHOTO: A Scandanavian Airlines, known as SAS, Airbus A320-200 airplane takes off from the airport in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Paul Hanna/File Photo

The Swedish pilots’ union in SAS Scandinavia has called a strike after it rejected a bid tabled by mediators to reach a deal, SAS said on Friday.

In addition to the 205 departures cancelled on Thursday, another 110 flights will be cancelled on Friday, affecting tens of thousands of passengers, the airline said.

“SAS is prepared to continue to negotiate, but if the requirements were to be met, they would have very negative consequences for the company,” the airline said.

Danish, Norwegian and Swedish pilot unions had earlier this month called for 1,500 pilots to go on strike on April 26 if no agreement was reached on wages and other issues after an earlier round of talks failed to bear results.

Flights operated by SAS Ireland and airlines that are subcontractors of SAS will not be affected by the strike, SAS said, adding that negotiations are still ongoing in Denmark and Norway.

Torbjörn Granevärn, head of negotiations at the Swedish Confederation of Transport Enterprises’ airlines section, had earlier said Swedish pilots had rejected the proposal despite provisions that provided greater scheduling predictability.

“We think that is very unfortunate,” he said in an emailed statement late on Thursday.

SAS, which normally flies around 800 flights per day, had said earlier on Thursday it would cancel 205 flights from midnight until noon on Friday as a precautionary measure as the negotiations between SAS and four pilot unions had dragged on.

Norwegian state mediator Mats Ruland told public broadcaster NRK that the breakdown of Swedish mediation did not directly affect negotiations with pilots in Norway.

As a midnight deadline passed, Norsk Pilotforbund, one of two Norwegian unions, said their talks were still ongoing. The Danish union was not immediately reachable for comment.

A strike by all the unions would affect 70 percent of SAS flights, with the remaining 30 percent operated by partners left unaffected. Around 170,000 travellers could be impacted if the strike lasted through the weekend, according to Annamatz.

Earlier this week, the airline offered travellers concerned about a possible strike the chance to reschedule flights for the April 26-29 period to another date free of charge.

SAS is in the midst of renewing an elderly and fuel-intensive fleet after spending years cutting costs in the face of cut-price competition from budget carriers such as Norwegian Air Shuttle and Ryanair.

The airline reported a bigger-than-expected loss for its fiscal first quarter in February, but said it still expected to record a profit for the full year.

Reporting by Anna Ringstrom, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Andreas Mortensen, Nerijus Adomaitis and Esha Vaish and Terje Solsvik, additional reporting by Ishita Chigilli Palli in Bengaluru; editing by Bill Berkrot and Gopakumar Warrier

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