A pilot’s strike at Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) over pay and working conditions continued for a second day, prompting the cancellation of nearly 700 additional flights. What exactly do pilots want?
The strike, by Danish, Norwegian and Swedish pilots’ unions, began on Friday and has now been extended to at least Sunday. 673 flights were canceled Friday, affecting approximately 72,000 passengers. Facing a stalemate in negotiations, roughly 70% of flights on Saturday and Sunday were also canceled, affecting about the same number of passengers.
SAS is offering free changes or refunds as well as offering to rebook passengers on partner flights, but thousands across Europe and around the world remain stranded.
Why Are Pilots Striking?
Scandinavian Airlines Systems is essentially four companies flying under the SAS banner. There are divisions in Denmark, Ireland, Norway, and Sweden. The three Scandinavian divisions are striking for more pay and more control over work schedule. The Irish division, a tremendous source of controversy which operates about 30% of SAS flights, is not striking.
On the pay front, SAS pilots are seeking an immediate 13% pay raise. The average Scandinavian pilot makes about 93,000 Swedish Krona (~ 9,800 USD) per month.
More importantly though, at least according to pilots, is a battle for working conditions and their security in the company. A union rep told the BBC:
Many SAS pilots have no control over when and how long they have to work. In a worst case scenario, they risk having to work seven weekends in a row.
Thus, key at the bargaining table is designing a new flight bidding system that gives pilot’s more control to choose or decline schedules.
Thirdly, pilots are worried about the growing division in Ireland. Those pilots are paid less for performing essentially the same function. Scandinavian pilots fear that as future hiring is focused in the Irish division, working conditions and pay will continue to erode in Scandinavia.
Meanwhile, SAS contends that a 13% pay raise is simply too much money. It reported a first-quarter loss and faces intense competition from budget carriers like EasyJet and Ryanair. It contends that it cannot profit with the deal pilots are seeking.
Tensions are rising as both sides accuse the other of sabotaging discussion. Meanwhile, if this strike extends too much longer SAS will likely forfeit its forecast profit anyway. SAS has set up a special page for flight disruptions here. There, you can check your flight status before heading to the airport.