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SAS

SAS pilots stop flying stranded Scandinavian travellers home

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The Local ([email protected])
SAS pilots stop flying stranded Scandinavian travellers home
File photo of an SAS aeroplane. Photo: Javad Parsa/NTB/TT

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) pilots will stop flying thousands of charter passengers home because they believe the airline has breached its side of the agreement as there are alternative travel options available.

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The pilots say SAS has not complied with the agreement they entered into.

According to the agreement, the SAS Pilot Group (SPG), which represents the pilots, had said on Thursday they would break their strike so that SAS could operate a limited number of flights to destinations where there were few or no options for return.

Since then, thousands of charter passengers have been flown home from their destinations.

But this latest news puts an end to that.

"During the weekend, to our great surprise, we have seen that many flights are being deployed to popular and well-trafficked holiday destinations, such as Rhodes, Crete, Larnaca and Split, from where there are already alternative travel options," SPG said in a press release.

"We find it regrettable that SAS is once again unable to comply with the agreement as intended, and SPG therefore finds itself forced to end the charter departures after the last flight today, 10 July 2022," SPG stated in the press release.

"Fully booked"
But according to SAS, the alternatives are extremely limited and it's not as easy to fly the charter passengers home as the pilots' association says.

"Most things are fully booked. Bringing home an entire aircraft with 180 passengers and believing you will be able to book it on other planes, even if it is Crete or Split, is obviously not going to not work," SAS communications director Karin Nyman said, Swedish newswire TT reported.

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She pointed out that it is usually possible to make exceptions for charter passengers during a strike and believed it "unnecessary" to involve them in the conflict

"It shows a heartlessness. Charter travellers are hit much harder than other travellers as they are more difficult to rebook. Now we have to go back and see what we can do, but unfortunately, it is the customers who are the losers in this," she added.

But SPG claims that SAS has, for commercial reasons, not tried to reallocate flight capacity to get the charter guests home, which was the aim of the agreement, Danish newswire Ritzau reported.

"Sad and negative"
Charter travel companies Ving and Apollo are both critical of SPG's announcement.

"It was a sad and negative message for us. Now we are resuming the work of finding our own flight solutions instead," said Claes Pellvik, communications manager at Ving, TT said.

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"You get upset. I think everyone wants the parties to find a solution, but it feels like they are just finding more conflicts," agreed Sandra Miller Kinge, communications manager at Apollo.

Since last Friday, Ving has received most of the passengers who were due to fly to Sweden, except for about 150 who were planned to fly on Monday and whose return travel is now uncertain.

And Apollo has about 300 passengers who would have flown to Sweden today, but who now have to wait to be told when they can return home.

No basis for real negotiations yet
Earlier today, the Norwegian SAS pilots' trade union had a so-called status meeting with mediators in Stockholm, head of the union Roger Klokset confirmed to newspaper Verdens Gang (VG).

The meeting was at the initiative of Swedish mediators, and both parties were present, Klokset said.

It was said to have been about "clarifications of position", but not negotiations.

"We have still not heard anything from SAS management that provides a basis for real negotiations," he said.

Tonje Sund, communications manager for SAS Norway, said the airline was in contact with the mediators, TT reported.

On Friday, one of the mediators in the pilot conflict, Mats Wilhelm Ruland, said he would probably call the parties soon.

"Of course SAS wants to negotiate," Sund said.

Around 1,000 SAS pilots from Denmark, Norway and Sweden went on strike on Monday after negotiations between them and SAS on wages and working conditions broke down. They offered to break the strike to fly stranded passengers home.

The airline has said that each day that the strike continues, 30,000 passengers will be affected

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