BREAKING: SAS pilots threaten to strike starting Thursday; local concert cancelled, weekend events face uncertainty


A threat by Scandinavian Airlines pilots to escalate a strike starting Thursday has resulted in the cancellation of a tour-opening concert by a Norwegian band that evening and may disrupt other events scheduled this weekend – plus, of course, travelers and businesses.

The Trondheim progressive band Motorpsycho was scheduled to begin a two-month European tour  with a performance at Kulturhuset on Thursday, but the group wasn’t ready to risk the possibility of a strike.

“In order to not get stuck at Svalbard and miss our hometown show on Saturday, we have – in agreement and cooperation with the local promoter – decided to not take the risk, so this show is cancelled,” the band wrote in an announcement at its official website. “This is obviously a giant bummer for everyone, but we promise to honor this obligation and will come to Svalbard as soon as we can! Scouts honor!”

A strike would also coincide with the third annual Arctic Action festival that’s scheduled to start Friday, and a concert by Tove Bøygard and Jørun Bøgeberg on Friday at Kroa.

SAS offers regularly scheduled flights between Longyearbyen and Oslo every day except Saturdays. A strike will leave those wanting to travel to and from Longyearbyen with just three flights a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays) on Norwegian Air.

As of early Wednesday afternoon the airline’s website shows flights from Longyearbyen to Oslo are sold out this Friday and next Monday, and only a 3,327-kroner “flex” fare is available next Wednesday. The flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen this Friday is also sold out.

The Norwegian Pilot Association’s threat due to a pay dispute comes days after SAS reached agreements with its pilots in Sweden and Denmark. Two pilots went on strike Monday, but all SAS pilots in Norway are scheduled to go on strike Thursday unless an agreement is reached.

Rickard Gustafson, the airline’s chief executive officer, told TV2 on Wednesday he was hoping to reach a last-minute deal. However, the pilot’s association told Norwegian media this week its members are preparing for a lengthy walkout.

SAS is offering free ticket changes for flights affected by the strike.

A strike by Norwegian Air pilots during March of 2015 resulted in two days of flights between Longyearbyen and Oslo being cancelled by the airline, causing major problems and stress for passengers and local businesses during a peak tourism season occurring just before record crowds arrived to watch a total solar eclipse. The airline resumed flights to the archipelago afterward, even though nearly all other flights in Scandinavia remained grounded a few more days until the strike ended.