Travellers going to or departing from any of the four Scandinavian countries are in for serious trouble, as there are whispers of a second SAS strike. Reports indicate that SAS flight attendants are planning a walkout once their contracts end on March 31st 2020. If the strike comes to pass, there may be massive delays in airports and even flight cancellations.
The age old battle of routine vs flexibility
Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) is in soup again. The airline, which has recently experienced a troublesome strike by its pilots, may be on the verge of seeing a walkout of its team of flight attendants.
At the heart of the issue is the extremely poor work-life balance offered by SAS. The airline’s employees receive their schedules only a fortnight before they’re meant to fly. Often, their schedules are too hectic and three out of four times, they are asked to work on weekends too. Unfortunately, there is no pattern or schedule for weekend overtime as well, with the airline making ad hoc requests of its teams. This gives cabin crews very little time to plan personal days with friends and families.
Currently, 2/3rdof the flight attendants working for SAS, are on a flexible schedule. Most of these employees work 90% of their schedule during the busy summer months and they have only about 3 days to themselves per month.
In multiple communications to the SAS management, senior cabin crew representatives from the Kabinansattes Forbund and Norsk Kabinforening (two important flight attendants’ labour federations in Scandinavia) had asked for a more predictable work schedule. However, SAS wants to retain flexibility in work scheduling and has refused cabin crews’ request. With the crews’ employment contracts with the airline up for renewal at the end of the first quarter, there is much pressure on the labour federations to represent flight attendants’ demands to the SAS.
The meetings are expected to take place sometime after Easter i.e. after April 12th2020 and will start first at Denmark, then followed by the other Scandinavian countries. Should the talks fall through, the strike is expected to be organized between April and May 2020, affecting hundreds of travellers arriving at and departing from the region.
Previous pilots’ strike caused thousands of dollars in business loss
The threat of an imminent strike has people at SAS worried. Especially so, given that the company is still recuperating from last year’s pilots’ strike.
In April 2019, over 1,400 pilots walked out of airports over issues regarding low pay and poor work-life balance. At one point, 673 flights were cancelled on a single day, with hundreds more delayed. Over 400,000 passengers were affected during the entire duration of the strike.
The week-long strike resulted in a drop in passenger carrier rate by 15.4% – something which is still having an economic repercussion for the airline even now. There were the added costs of flight refunds. For flights that couldn’t be rerouted or where alternative tickets couldn’t be provided, SAS offered full refunds to passengers. Analysts from reputed agencies have reported that the pilots’ strike may have resulted in losses worth over SEK 500 million. It is believed that, should the cabin crews’ strike also take place this year, the devastation could be worse for SAS.
However, travellers to/from Scandinavia need to be aware that SAS still hasn’t refunded passengers for last year’s cancelled flights. Any delays or cancellations this April may have a similar outcome.