SAS strike: What can be expected from fresh talks Monday? 

Negotiations to end the SAS pilot strike in Sweden, Denmark and Norway resumed Monday. But are the parties any closer to an agreement, or will talks break down? 

Talks to end the SAS strike in Norway, Sweden and Denmark resumed on Monday morning.
Grounded SAS planes at Arlanda airport near Stockholm. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/ AFP

SAS and pilots’ representatives returned to the negotiating table on Monday morning after pausing talks Sunday evening. 

The pause followed a 33-hour negotiation marathon, where the parties continued bargaining through the night on Saturday evening, which analysts had suggested could be a sign the parties were close to an agreement. 

Talks approaching ‘end of the road’

Chief negotiator for SAS, Marianne Hernæs, said today’s talks could be decisive in determining whether a deal could be struck or negotiations break down again. 

“It is starting to become irresponsible to continue. That is where we are approaching today,” she told reporters in Stockholm. 

As well as suggesting that the battle to find an agreement may be “lost” she said that the mediation process would only continue if the parties were close to striking a deal. 

“If we are close to a solution with only a few small things left, then we can consider a couple of hours more, but we will soon be at the end of the road,” Hernæs said. 

She added that a decision on ending mediation talks would be made by SAS management if an agreement isn’t found today. 

Ombudsman Mats Ruland was more optimistic when speaking to the press this morning and said that the parties had made steady progress in recent days. 

“I hope we can get a solution. That is my goal here, and I have not given up yet,” he said to reporters outside Näringslivets Hus, where talks are taking place. 

Jan Levi Skogvang, at talks on behalf of  SAS pilots represented by the union Parat, told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK that unions were also working towards securing a deal which would bring an end to strike action today. 

“We are working to finish, (we) hope SAS does the same,” he said. 

Roger Klokset, chairman of the Norwegian pilot association, told NRK that the group he heads would be willing to continue talks beyond today if necessary. 

Are the parties any closer to an agreement? 

On Sunday, Jacob Pedersen, aviation analyst at Sydbank, predicted that the parties were close to an agreement. 

“I have no other good suggestions other than it must be close. Whether it will be Sunday, Monday or maybe Tuesday is more of an open question,” he told Danish newswire Ritzau. 

READ MORE: Signs of ‘imminent’ agreement as Scandinavian airline SAS and pilots negotiate overnight

Meanwhile, Claes Stråth, one of the mediators involved in the process, said that progress was being made. 

“We have made a list of around 25 areas to be addressed, and many of them have now been reviewed,” he told Swedish newswire TT.

SAS also opened strongly on the Norwegian stock market on Monday morning, rising 8 percent minutes after opening. By 10:30am, shares had increased by 15.41 percent, which indicates the market is optimistic that the parties in Stockholm will be able to find an end to the strike. 

According to NRK, a key sticking point in the negotiations is the duration of the agreement to be made since re-negotiation and strikes won’t be allowed during that period. SAS is pushing for a deal for six, eight, or ten years, while a shorter term would benefit the pilots.  

Pilots are striking over wage cuts demanded by management as part of a restructuring plan to keep the airline afloat and the practice of not re-hiring pilots laid off during the pandemic. 

Axed staff have had to compete against external applications for roles with subsidiaries SAS Link and SAS Connect on less favourable terms than with the main airline SAS Scandinavia.

READ ALSO: Why are SAS pilots on strike?

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Why multiple airlines are cutting flights to and from Norway this winter

In recent weeks, multiple airlines flying to and from Norway – including Flyr, Norse Atlantic Airways, and Widerøe – announced cuts to flight routes.

Why multiple airlines are cutting flights to and from Norway this winter

The aviation industry has experienced a couple of extremely rough years.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated travel restrictions led to a drastic increase in air passengers worldwide.

The aftereffects of two years of the pandemic can still be felt at airports in Scandinavia and beyond.

Just as things were starting to look up in early 2022, a multitude of new crises emerged, as Russia invaded Ukraine and energy prices (and overall prices, too) spiralled out of control.

Not surprisingly, these external shocks are shaking up the aviation industry once again, and a number of flight routes within, from, and to Norway this Winter has been affected.

Flyr, Norse Atlantic Airways, and Widerøe have already announced cuts in their flight routes, while industry experts expect SAS and Norwegian to follow suit.

Flyr cuts domestic flights

Earlier this week, Norwegian airline Flyr announced it is cutting its domestic routes offer in Norway in a bid to save around 400 million kroner ahead of the Winter season.

In a press release, Flyr pointed out that the Winter period is likely to be very challenging, with a “record number of interest rate increases,” “overall high price growth,” “very high electricity prices,” and “persistently high fuel prices.”

The sum of these challenges, the company believes, will lead to fewer people traveling in the months ahead. Furthermore, the airline also plans to lay off employees to cut costs.

“By implementing these measures, we will be well positioned to come back in full force in the Spring and Summer,” Flyr’s CEO Tonje Wikstrøm Frislid said.

Norse Atlantic Airways limits flight offer between Norway and USA

On Tuesday, passengers in Norway planning trips to the USA this Winter were disappointed to find out that Norse Atlantic Airways has decided to cut its number of overseas trips due to falling demand.

The airline will stop operating its route between Oslo and Orlando from October 15, while the Los Angeles – Oslo route will stop running a day later, on October 16.

Weekly departures on the Oslo – New York and Oslo – Fort Lauderdale routes will be reduced from seven to three and three to two departures a week, respectively.

Luckily, the daily route from Oslo to New York, via London Gatwick, will stay in place, but the flight time will be slightly longer than before.

Widerøe cuts mostly affect commercial routes

Despite reporting a new passenger record for September, Widerøe is cutting its flight offer as part of its preparations for a harsh Winter with high fuel prices and weak market prospects.

“We are not satisfied with what we see in the market going forward. The (measures aimed at) cooling off the Norwegian economy are very effective, and not surprisingly, they have also affected the demand for air travel,” commercial director at Widerøe, Christian Skaug, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Widerøe has an agreement with the state which states that they must operate a certain number of routes in order to provide service to people living in Norway’s rural areas.

These routes are unlikely to be affected to a notable extent, but commercial routes will be characterised by fewer departures in the coming months.

SAS and Norwegian also expected to cut flights

Aviation industry analyst Hans Jørgen Elnæs at Winair told NRK that he also expects route cuts from other airlines.

“There is no surprise or drama in this… It makes sense that airlines plan to reduce capacity in the Autumn and Winter in the (current) situation,” Elnæs says, adding that these decisions are influenced by the ongoing war in Europe, the overall pressure on prices, and tighter personal finances for many passengers in Norway.

All of these factors reduce demand, the expert believes.

Elnæs also commented on Norse Atlantic’s decision to cut routes between Norway and USA.

“This is also a result of declining demand. I expect that SAS, Norwegian, and Flyr will make similar cuts in the future.”