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'It feels like we've been abandoned': Outrage as hundreds of SAS flights cancelled

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'It feels like we've been abandoned': Outrage as hundreds of SAS flights cancelled
Stranded passengers pictured at Oslo's Gardemoen Airport on Friday morning. Photo: Ole Berg-Rusten/NTB Scanpix/TT
11:58 CEST+02:00
UPDATED: Tens of thousands of passengers have been left stranded or had their travel plans disrupted by a Scandinavia-wide SAS pilot strike which entered its fifth day on Tuesday. Some of those affected told The Local they would avoid flying with SAS in future, while others said they had received no communication from the airline.

One passenger, American Sue Ann Reynolds, told The Local she had had problems getting information from the airline about their Stockholm-Los Angeles flight booked with SAS on Saturday, April 27th.

“Despite having given the website my contact information, I received no word that my flight was cancelled from SAS,” she said. Reynolds noticed that the help phonelines listed on the airline's website had long greetings in Swedish, and said that despite spending hours waiting in phone queues over the weekend, “I was never able to get through to a person.”

“I have spent the entire day trying to get in contact with SAS, booking new hotels, arranging a new flight. And I have still had zero contact with SAS,”she said. Reynolds calculated her expenses due to the strike as €2,153, including a new last-minute bookings, hotel expenses, and meals, and added that she had spent the last few days alone after her family members were able to leave with other airlines over the weekend.

"The reason for my trip to Los Angeles is to renew my study visa for Italy at the Italian consulate in Los Angeles. I have missed the date of my appointment, and they are not being very accommodating to get me in," she commented.

Reynolds booked a flight home with SAS competitor Norwegian Airlines, and said that by Tuesday she had still not heard back from SAS, although she believes they rebooked her onto a flight from Switzerland, rather than Sweden. 

"I did receive an SMS about an hour ago from SWISS (I assume Swiss Air) about a flight that I did not purchase and know nothing about. It is informing me that my flight from ZURICH to Los Angeles, LX40 on April 30th has been delayed until 17:30," she said. "Who booked this flight for me (and how I was supposed to get to Zürich), I have no idea. The SMS does not include a reference number or booking number, and I have no idea how to inform them that that I will not be on the flight."

Canadian Anthony Neal Macri only discovered that his Friday flight from Berlin to Copenhagen was cancelled once he arrived at the airport.

"There was absolutely no communication or information from the airline whatsoever," Macri told The Local.

"SAS has no offices or personnel in the airport. They have offered zero support. I have called six different phone numbers, as shown on their website, all of them closed. I also called the VIP airline phone number given on the website, which says it's 24/7, but they hung up on me twice."

Macri was travelling for business, as the owner of a web design and app development agency, and had a meeting with a possible new client scheduled in Copenhagen. After being informed he would be re-booked on a new flight two hours after his original one, he is now set to travel to Copenhagen via Frankfurt rather than direct, making him seven hours late for the planned meeting.

"This will also impact my entire schedule in Copenhagen given other meetings will have to be moved, or cancelled altogether given my flight back to Toronto is already booked and cannot be changed," he commented.

"It was the first time I was flying with SAS, but I don't think I will ever consider them again when flying around Europe."

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Barry Hennessy was also travelling for business, and found out at 5.45am that his Friday afternoon flight from Stockholm to London was cancelled.

"Our response was to contact our agent Expedia to find out what we could do, they instructed us to contact SAS direct. We have been trying to contact SAS all day; none of their phone numbers provided are available. The chat option also is not available."

Hennessy said that the consequences of the strike were "lost time and money and frustration" and that he doubted he would fly with the airline again.

"It feels like we have been abandoned," he said.

Another passenger, Jonas Nordin, wrote on Twitter: "Trip to my niece's third birthday party cancelled because SAS has the country's most spoiled workers. [I] empathize with all those missing even more important events."

One Twitter user said she was concerned that her partner's flight home after a month working overseas in Norway might get cancelled, and told SAS that their six-year-old son "is missing him and has been counting down to see him". Another passenger said her flight to visit her terminally ill father in Stavanger, Norway had been cancelled, and told the airline it was urgent that her sister's flight was rebooked.

On social media, many more people complained they were unable to get through to SAS Customer Services, with some saying they had not been informed of the cancellation or were given contradictory information by different staff members at SAS.

However, passenger Stefan Chromik contacted The Local to share his positive experience.

"I might be affected as I am in Faroe Islands enjoying holidays with my family. We have a scheduled flight for Sunday back to Stockholm via Copenhagen," he said. "I just wanted to let you know that SAS informed me about the possibility of flight disruptions last week on Friday (19th) during check-in and then they sent an email yesterday and then today again."

SAS and the pilots' union both said that they regretted any inconvenience for customers.

"Our first priority now is to take care of our passengers and at this moment in time, all SAS employees are doing everything they can to help customers affected," said Karin Nyman, director of communications at SAS.

READ ALSO: What are my rights if a flight is cancelled or delayed?

 
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