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SAS’ new livery still features the signature blue tail but now elegantly sweeps onto the fuselage (Photo: AirlineGeeks)

SAS Airlines Lays Off 560 Pilots Amid Pandemic

After letting go 350 cabin crew earlier this month, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has terminated the contracts of 560 pilots in Sweden, Denmark and Norway in a bid to save costs amid pandemic. First reported by the Swedish national public television broadcaster SVT News, the affected crew will be notified by June 30.

Although details as to the layoffs have not been revealed, The first area likely to be affected will be pilots flying its Boeing fleet. In 2018, SAS announced an order of 50 more A320neos to replace all 737NGs in service as part of its goal to have an all-Airbus fleet by 2023 when the airline will have at least 80 Airbus A320neos in service. The airline currently operates 21 B737-700 and 26 B737-800 which will be removed from the fleet to create a single-type fleet.

The Swedish Pilots Association believes that the airline has chosen to proceed with redundancies before considering other alternatives. Among other things, it points out that the situation may look different when the pilots’ notice period is over.

“Many of the pilots have long notice periods. How can SAS know what the situation looks like in six months ahead after the pilots have left the company?” said Martin Lindgren, chairman of the association.

At the end of April, SAS announced that it had to cut its workforce by 5,000 employees, i.e. almost half of the company’s total employees, which corresponds to 1,300 employees in Norway, 1,900 in Sweden and 1,700 in Denmark.

“COVID-19 has forced SAS to face a new and unprecedented reality that will reverberate not only in the coming months, but also during the coming years. In order to continue this important societal function, we need to adapt our cost base to the prevailing circumstances. Regretfully, we are forced to adapt our workforce to lower passenger demand,” said Rickard Gustafson, CEO SAS.

Hit hard by the novel coronavirus crisis, the airline battles to ensure its survival. Among other things, the flag carrier for the three countries has been most affected by the unprecedented slump in demand for air travel, pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns. To give a striking example, the number of departures from Swedish airports in May slumped by 98% compared with the same period last year.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the airline had more than 800 daily departures operated by a fleet of 156 aircraft including the brand new Airbus A350-900s. In mid-June, SAS confirmed that it will increase capacity by ten aircraft in July, from 30 to 40. However, capacity will still be only at 30% compared to June 2019.

Additionally, Scandinavian struggles to reimburse passengers for canceled flights. The company owes customers approximately $725 million. The flights that were canceled in March are expected to be reimbursed in June, whereas the ones that had to be canceled in April and May will be compensated in September. SAS press manager John Eckhoff assured customers that they will receive a refund, “if they wish.” He pointed out that SAS has been granted $340 million government aid in Sweden and Denmark, adding that they were working on a plan to raise capital.

SAS Will Fly to 95 Destinations in Summer

As demand and interest in travel in Europe increase, SAS resumes seven new routes from Copenhagen. Last week, the airline unveiled its flight schedule for July. The airline said that it saw a rise in demand and interest for travel in Europe following the partial lifting of coronavirus restrictions in Europe. With the demand slowly increasing once again, the airline is boosting the frequency of flights on many routes and resuming services to seven destinations, including popular tourist hotspots in Italy and France.

In July, SAS will fly to an additional seven destinations from Copenhagen including long haul destinations such as San Francisco, Chicago and New York. The airline will operate scheduled flights to 95 destinations as of July, corresponding to approximately 75% of its network. The airline will gradually add more destinations from Norway, Sweden and Denmark as demand returns.

SAS operates flights to, from and within Scandinavia. The airline, which has a fleet of 156 aircraft, connects three main hubs – Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm – with over 125 destinations in Europe, the US and Asia.

Bulent Imat
Bulent Imat
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