Despite the fact that its recent strikes affected around 64,000 passengers, Scandinavian airline SAS has stated that it will reject all compensation claims.
EU law clearly states that passengers affected by major flight cancellations or delays are entitled to compensation. Depending on the duration of the delay, the compensation value can go all the way up to €600. However, the payment is valid only if the delay or cancellation is found to be the fault of the airline.
If it is found that the delay was caused due to “extraordinary circumstances,” i.e. events beyond the control of the airline, compensation claims will not be entertained.
The SAS is now trying to make the most of this exception by claiming that the strikes were well beyond its control. According to Morten Johansen, SAS Information Manager, passengers are not entitled to compensation when the delay/cancellation occurs as the result of extraordinary circumstances, such as a strike.
Position to be Challenged
Not surprisingly, the SAS’s stance will likely be challenged. According to certain Danish firms that specialize in airline passenger rights, SAS passengers affected by the current disruption are entitled to compensation.
Both firms supported their statement by referring to a decision made by the EU Court of Justice, in 2018, that strikes do not necessarily fall under the category of “extraordinary circumstances”. With this ruling, the court set a new precedent where airline strikes would be assessed on a case by case basis.
Most Passengers Affected
The SAS strike began in the last week of April, affecting several thousand passengers. Over a thousand flights were cancelled as a result. However, they weren’t all cancelled at once. Even so, this affected over 100,000 passengers.
Around 70% of SAS flights were affected, out of which, the majority were domestic flights. Other than that, many long-haul and European flights also made the list. Around 1400 pilots were said to have staged a walkout, according to the SAS Pilot Group. This included around 372 pilots in Denmark, 492 in Sweden, and 545 in Norway.
The strikes occurred as a result of failures in negotiations concerning a collective bargaining agreement between the airline and pilots. The disagreements were related to increases in salaries, scheduling, and working hours.
Passengers affected by the disruption complained that they had been abandoned by the airline. Several passengers were left stranded, and a majority of them reported that the airline was of very little help to them.
Mariam Skovfoged, the Director of Communications for SAS, told the media that the company was willing to identify a solution that will help bring back the pilots on board. She spoke of entering into a responsible and good agreement with the pilot associations.
René Arpe, Danish Pilot Association Head and Chairman of the SAS Pilot Group, stated that the striking pilots would continue negotiations but that would depend on the SAS adopting a new attitude. Arpe added that the airline would have to take things seriously if the negotiations are to continue.