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1,000 pilots go on strike, forcing Scandinavian Airlines to cancel hundreds of flights

Business Insider logo Business Insider 7/4/2022 (Taylor Rains)
A Scandinavian Airlines plane. Shutterstock © Provided by Business Insider A Scandinavian Airlines plane. Shutterstock
  • Scandinavian Airlines pilots have gone on strike after pay negotiations failed.
  • The walkout will affect about half the airline's flights and 30,000 passengers a day, SAS said.
  •  The decision to strike was labeled "devastating" and "reckless" by the CEO, Anko van der Werff.

Scandinavian Airlines pilots have gone on strike, forcing the European carrier to cancel hundreds of flights and disrupting travel plans of tens of thousands of passengers. 

SAS and its pilots had been in talks over pay and working conditions since June 9 and the pilots' union warned of a strike if a deal was not reached.

However, negotiations reached a stalemate and 1,000 pilots in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden have walked off the job, forcing the airline to cancel about half its flights, the company said. About 30,000 passengers a day will be affected. 

"We deeply regret that our customers are affected by this strike, leading to delays and canceled flights," SAS said.

"We know all our passengers have been longing for this summer holiday and have booked travels for themselves and their loved ones. SAS employees are working hard to help our customers that have been affected by this unfortunate situation."

The airline's chief executive, Anko van der Werff, called the move "reckless behavior" and "devastating for SAS."

"We are ready to resume mediation as soon as possible and we will do our utmost to reach an agreement that is viable to secure the long-term competitiveness and financial sustainability of the company," he said. "We presume that the SAS Scandinavia pilots' unions realize what is at stake and choose to continue the work to find an agreement."

Some 174 SAS flights, or 52% of its schedule, have been canceled, according to FlightAware data.

The airline said any flights operated by SAS Link, SAS Connect, and any "external partners" will not be affected.

For affected customers who cannot be moved to a flight with another airline can request a refund or move their trip to a later date. SAS said rebooking on a different flight was "highly limited" due to limited availability.

SAS is the first major airline to face strike action since the pandemic as carriers focus on recovering after years of financial struggles, Reuters reported.

Scandinavian has embarked on a $3 billion restructuring plan, according to Bloomberg, and the strike is another setback. 

In 2019, SAS pilots walked out over failed pay negotiations, leading to nearly 700 flights being canceled.

SAS' pilot strike comes as the industry continues to battle booming demand and pilot shortages.

In the US, hundreds of Delta Air Lines pilots picketed outside hub airports on Thursday. Meanwhile, European low-cost carrier easyJet saw its chief operating officer resign on Monday over mass flight cancellations and delays this summer.

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