SAS Reaches Collective Agreement With Pilots After Week-long Flight Disruption

An SAS Airbus A340 at San Francisco International Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Parker Davis)

Scandinavian carrier SAS reached an agreement with its pilot group this week ending a strike which lasted seven days resulting in the cancellation of over 4,000 flights. The airline announced the end of the industrial action at a press conference on Thursday evening bringing relief to its customers, 360,000 of whom had been disrupted by the week-long dispute.

As previously reported, the pilots had been seeking a 13 percent salary increase, limits on the number of hours rostered and increased notice of scheduled trip patterns. The airline advised that the new collective agreement would be valid for a three-year term, subject to ratification by Norwegian and Danish pilots. Forbes reported that the agreement will give pilots salary increases of 3.5 percent in 2019, three percent in 2020 and four percent in 2021 and that SAS would concede on roster flexibility.

Christian Laulund, head of one of four pilot unions representing the 1,400 SAS pilots, said: “The proportion of pilots in the (SAS) group with a predictable rotation system will increase from 40 percent to 60 percent.”

Rickard Gustafson, President and CEO of SAS said on Thursday: “It is with relief I now conclude that our customers soon will be flying again and that we will be able to pursue our commitment to travelers to, from and within Scandinavia.”

The airline could not give an immediate indication of the financial implications of what it referred to as a ‘conflict’ between the company and its pilots though estimates reported in Scandinavian media put the figure at $52 million.

Going forward, the introduction of the collective agreement will put the airline’s costs under pressure, adding to the impact of a lower Swedish kronor and rising fuel prices. Of further concern is the impact the strike will have on the confidence of the travelling public who have been adversely affected by cancelled flights and the airline’s refusal to pay compensation resulting from the disruption. A positive for SAS was the gain by nine percent on the value of shares in anticipation of an agreement. The airline had been devalued by a third since February.

John Flett

John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content.

John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John is currently the course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.
John Flett