Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) has found itself in deep water recently after the SAS Pilot Group (SPG) announced it will stop operating charter flights meant to bring stranded passengers back home. The pilot union is officially on strike but had made a few concessions to operate charter flights not to leave Scandinavian tourists stranded abroad. However, SPG pilots stopped providing their services since yesterday, July 10th. Let’s take a closer look at what happened.
Pilots feel cheated
SPG partially broke its strike on Thursday, July 7th, to ensure Scandinavian passengers, who have no role in their ongoing dispute with SAS, are not left stranded in a foreign country with no way to return home. The union’s pilots agreed to operate charter flights on two conditions: that passengers will only be ferried on the return leg, and only flights to vulnerable destinations will be operated where other travel options are scarce.
SAS pilots on strike stopped operating charter flights on Sunday, July 10th. Photo: Getty Images.
This arrangement was set to be in place for at least a couple of weeks. However, after operating said charter flights over the weekend, the pilot union observed that SAS was operating on routes well-serviced by other carriers.
The SPG said in a statement,
“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. 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.”
According to Swedish news agency The Local, SAS thinks there aren’t many last-minute alternate travel options for stranded passengers. Despite there being some popular destinations in the list of flights operated, SAS communications director Karin Nyman told TT news,
“Most things are fully booked. Bringing home an entire aircraft with 180 passengers and believing you will be able to book it on other plans, even if it is Crete or Split, it is obviously not going to not work. It shows a heartlessness. Charter travelers are hit much harder than other travelers 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.”
SAS has called its pilots to return to the negotiating table. Photo: Getty Images
Indeed, no matter who is right or wrong in this dispute, it is the passengers who suffer. Things aren’t looking too bright for SAS either; the carrier recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US after the SPG voted in favor of the strike action. SAS’ future becomes increasingly uncertain with every passing day of the SPG pilots’ strike.
UPDATE: 2022/07/11 14:11 EST BY DEVANSH MEHTA
Head of communications for Ving, a travel company affected by the SPG’s decision, told Simple Flying
“We believe it was an unfortunate decision, by the pilot union, not to continue with the repatriation flights for short shipped package tour clients. It is not easy to find ACMI capacity on short notice, that we know for sure. But we have summarized that work again.During the past week we have had some subcharter flights with Spanish AlbaStsr and Air Montenegro, helping us out.
Today we only have 150 passengers that we need to find alternative solutions for. All our passengers will get home, but it will probably take some longer time, and we assist them with accommodation and meals.
For the rest of this week we have a couple of hundred passengers, mainly during the coming weekend, that are affected if the SAS strike continues.
Lastly the vast majority of our clients are not affected by the strike, since they are flying with our own Sunclass Airlines.”
What do you make of SPG’s decision to stop operating any more charter flights? Do you think they did the right thing? Please, let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Source: The Local