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Picture: 123RF/JAROMIR CHALABALA
Picture: 123RF/JAROMIR CHALABALA

Stockholm — Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) said on Thursday a pilot strike now in its 11th day threatened the airline’s ability to access bridge financing without which it may be forced to radically downsize or could collapse.

SAS and unions were locked in more talks on Thursday to end a strike among most of its pilots at the peak of the holiday travel season, over conditions related to the Scandinavian carrier’s rescue plan.

“The strikes threaten the company’s ability to ultimately successfully raise critically needed near-term and long-term capital to fund the company's successful reorganisation,” SAS said in a statement. “In such an event, the company will need to consider selling valuable strategic assets under duress while also radically downsizing SAS’s operations and fleet.”

The parties resumed collective bargaining talks on Wednesday after negotiations broke down on July 4.

“We really hope that we will reach an agreement. These are constructive talks,” mediator Jan Sjolin said.

SAS chief negotiator Marianne Hernaes told reporters it was hard to tell whether a deal would be reached.

The carrier, whose main owners are the governments of Sweden and Denmark, cancelled 201 flights on Thursday, or 64% of those scheduled, according to FlightAware. SAS said the strike so far had caused 2,550 flight cancellations, affecting 270,000 passengers, and cost it $94m-$123m.

It has warned its limited cash reserves will erode quickly if the strike continues. Long-struggling SAS, which needs to slash costs and attract new investors to survive, filed for US bankruptcy protection on July 5.

“The strike is putting the success of the Chapter 11 process and, ultimately, the survival of the company at stake,” CEO Anko van der Werff said.

Pilots employed by SAS Scandinavia, a subsidiary of SAS Group, have said they would agree to limited wage cuts and less favourable terms but SAS said concessions so far are not enough for it to carry out a rescue plan announced in February.

Unions are demanding that pilots who lost their jobs during the pandemic are rehired at SAS Scandinavia, rather than having to compete with external applicants for jobs with less attractive terms at newly started SAS Link and Ireland-based SAS Connect.

Danish mechanics, who had been striking in sympathy with pilots, said they were ending their action, a move that means SAS planes in Copenhagen would be serviced and could get back in the air swiftly once a deal with pilots is reached.

Swedish mechanics have not gone on strike. Pilots employed by SAS Connect and SAS Link are also not on strike.

Reuters

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