Scandinavian airline SAS seals deal to end pilots' strike

Stockholm (AFP) –


Scandinavian airline SAS said Thursday it has reached an agreement with the pilots' union to end a week-long strike that has seen over 4,000 flights cancelled and left more than 380,000 passengers stranded.

"I'm relieved to inform our customers and employees that we can now put this conflict behind us," SAS chief executive Rickard Gustafson told a news conference in Stockholm late Thursday.

Gustafson hoped that normal operations would be resumed as soon as possible, but he said it could take up to 24 hours before the necessary arrangements could be made.

"There are a lot of planes and a lot of crews that are not in the correct locations right now," Gustafson said.

It's been nearly a week since 1,409 pilots in Sweden, Denmark and Norway walked off the job on April 26, grounding domestic, European and long-haul SAS flights.

The Swedish Air Line Pilots Association had called the strike over "deteriorating work conditions, unpredictable work schedules and job insecurity" for pilots.

The stoppage was called when negotiations between the two sides broke down, and they did not officially resume until Wednesday when the two parties met in Oslo.

"The last 24 hours have been strenuous, but we have finally been able to reach an agreement to end the strike," said union representative, Wilhelm Tersmeden.

The union said Thursday that it had obtained a 3.5-percent wage increase for 2019, 3.0 percent for 2020 and 4.0 percent for 2021, as well as improved job security and predictability for work schedules.

- Counting the cost -

The strike is likely to cost SAS dearly. The carrier already implemented a number of belt-tightening measures after nearly going bankrupt in 2012.

Danish Sydbank analyst, Jacob Pedersen, put the estimated cost at 60-80 million Swedish krona (5.6-7.5 million euro or $6.3-8.4 million) a day for SAS.

SAS transports 30 million passengers per year and employs 10,000 people.

The Swedish and Danish governments together hold around 30 percent of the airline, with the remaining 70 percent controlled by institutional and private investors.

In the first quarter of the current year, SAS's net loss widened to 469 million krona from 249 million krona a year earlier.

The group's shares have lost nearly a third of their value since early February, but rose sharply at the close on Thursday on media reports of an imminent deal.