SAS strike grounds home-bound exchange students

Among the tens of thousands of passengers affected by the SAS pilot strike are exchange students who waiting to go home.

SAS strike grounds home-bound exchange students
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

After a year studying in Uppsala Jovi Kerr, Vikki Ogilvie and Marie Require all learned on Monday that their SAS flights home were cancelled. 

“I was originally meant to be flying yesterday to London at 3.30pm and was en route to the airport when I found out it had been cancelled,” Ogilvie, from New Zealand, told The Local.  

She is about to move to London but has had to put her plans on hold.

“It changed in my Google calendar to say it was cancelled and I had to go to the website and check the flight status to confirm, because I thought it was a glitch”.

Kerr was also headed for London, but his Tuesday flight too was cancelled.

“I wasn't emailed about the possibility of a cancellation or contacted in any way until the evening before my flight,” he said. 

“After hours of messaging them on Facebook, they finally gave me a solution, one which meant I had to leave in 30 minutes,” said Kerr. 

He finally flew to Malmö, caught a train to Copenhagen, from where he will be able to fly back to the UK. 

“I don’t blame SAS for the issues, but their customer service wasn’t helpful and I did not know where or when I'd be going”.

Jovi Kerr. Photo: Private

Marie Riquier, who was supposed to fly back to France on Tuesday afternoon, said she had received “no excuses, no warning” from the airline. 

She heard from a friend that SAS was cancelling flights and found out to her dismay that hers was affected.  

Riquier said she spent hours on Monday night trying to reach SAS. She eventually gave up before trying again on Tuesday morning.  

“I waited more than 30 minutes and one of their employees rebooked my flight for tomorrow, same schedule but without being able to confirm it 100 percent because they don’t know yet about tomorrow’s flights, if they will be cancelled or not”.

Marie needs to reach Lille in the north of France, but can't book train tickets from Paris until she knows when she'll land.

Ogilvie said the strike had forced her to postpone two important meetings.

“But SAS were as helpful as they could be,” she reckoned, even though she had to pay for her own train ticket to Copenhagen.

In spite of the turmoil, Riquier was trying to stay positive:

“I heard they take care of hotel rooms, food and drinks, so no one is really left without any solution. It could be much worse,” she said. 

But Jovi Kerr was still annoyed.

“It's all been super stressful and I don't trust SAS' Swedish pilots enough to fly with SAS again”.

With SAS pilots’ wage claims not yet satisfied, their strike is expected to continue. Negotiations reached a deadlock last Friday between the pilots' union and the employer. The parties have not even been able to agree on how much the lowest-paid pilots receive in salary.  


Hundreds of thousands take to streets against Macron’s pension plan

Demonstrators in France took to the streets Saturday for a seventh day of protest against President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform plans, with police expecting up to a million people at rallies nationwide.

Hundreds of thousands take to streets against Macron's pension plan

Unions hope they can still force Macron to back down as parliament debates the draft law, with the National Assembly and the Senate moving towards a final vote as early as this month.

“This is the final stretch,” said Marylise Leon, deputy leader of the CFDT union. “The endgame is now,” she told the franceinfo broadcaster Saturday.

This week, Macron twice turned down urgent calls by unions to meet with him in a last-ditch attempt to get him to change his mind.

“When there are millions of people in the streets, when there are strikes and all we get from the other side is silence, people wonder: What more do we need to do to be heard?”, said Philippe Martinez, boss of the hard-left CGT

“This country’s leaders need to stop being in denial of this social movement,” said CFDT head Laurent Berger on Saturday.

Police said they expect between 800,000 and one million people at 230 planned demonstrations across France, of which up to 100,000 were likely to march in Paris.

It was the second protest day called on a weekend, with unions hoping that demonstrators would show up in greater numbers if they did not have to take a day off work.

“I’m here to fight for my colleagues and for our young people,” said Claude Jeanvoine, 63, a retired train driver demonstrating in Strasbourg, eastern France. “People shouldn’t let the government get away with this, this is about the future of their children and grandchildren,” he told AFP.

READ ALSO: 5 minutes to understand … French pension reform 

At the last big strike and protest day on Tuesday, turnout was just under 1.3 million people, according to police, and more than three million according to unions.

Several sectors in the French economy have been targeted by union calls for indefinite strikes, including in rail and air transport, power stations, natural gas terminals and rubbish collection.

The French Senate, meanwhile, early Saturday resumed debate on the reform whose headline measure is a hike in the minimum retirement age to 64 from 62.

Senators have until Sunday evening to conclude their discussions, and a commission is then to elaborate a final version of the draft law which will be submitted to both houses of parliament for a final vote.

Should Macron’s government fail to assemble a majority ahead of the vote, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne could deploy a rarely-used constitutional tool, known as article 49/3, to push the legislation through without a vote.

An opinion poll published by broadcaster BFMTV Saturday found that 63 percent of French people approve the protests against the reform, and 54 percent were also in favour of the strikes and blockages in some sectors.

Some 78 percent, however, said they believed that Macron would end up getting the reform adopted.

READ ALSO: LATEST: How strikes will affect France this weekend