SAS announced on Monday that it will overtake control of Danish airline Cimber at a price of 20 million kroner ($3.3 million). The buy saves Cimber from following through on previously announced shutdown plans, which were set in motion in September after SAS decided to end its ACMI contract with the small Sønderborg-based airline.
But while that might be good news for the 130 Cimber employees who were otherwise slated to lose their jobs, industry insiders say the move signals SAS’s intention to move employees to a more cost-effective collective bargaining agreement. And that in turn could lead to an employee strike.
“This presents a risk that employees might react by going on strike, just like what happened at Lufthansa and Air France. SAS’s employees are under a lot of pressure,” Jacob Pedersen, a senior analyst at Sydbank, told Berlingske Business.
“I cannot say where this will go; I can just say that [there were strikes] when Air France and Lufthansa tried to redirect traffic from their main operations down to subsidiaries that had cheaper bargaining agreements,” he added.
As part of the agreement to buy Cimber, SAS will receive 35 million kroner worth of CO2 quotas from 2015-2020, allowing SAS to move operations over to smaller Cimber planes. SAS will still use its own planes and personnel on longer routes, but will base 12 CRJ 900 planes in Copenhagen for shorter flights. Those aircraft will be operated by Cimber but fly under the SAS logo.
“The acquisition of Cimber will give SAS access to a specialist within regional flights with a very competitive production platform that complements SAS’s production of larger Airbus and Boeing aircraft,” SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson said in a press release.
The Sønderborg-based Cimber was established in 1950 as Cimber Air. In 2008, the company bought parts of the bankrupt Sterling Airlines and changed its name to Cimber Sterling. Four years later, Cimber Sterling itself declared bankruptcy before being given a lifeline in the form of an ACMI contract with SAS.