ALERT: SAS STRIKE STARTING FRIDAY? Pilot walkout may halt Svalbard flights on eve of ski marathon, adding further misfortune to biggest one-day event of the year


Pilots at Scandinavian Airlines are threatening to go on strike at midnight Friday, which could result in cancelled flights for a large number of the nearly 1,000 people expected to participate Saturday in the Svalbard Skimaraton, the archipelago’s largest one-day event of the year.

SAS flights from Oslo to Longyearbyen are scheduled at 2:25 a.m. and 1:25 p.m. Friday, and typically the flights are largely filled with people arriving for the race. But a strike would leave only a single Norwegian Air flight scheduled that day – which at 9:50 a.m. on Thursday had three available seats remaining for a one-way price of 4,249 kroner.

The SAS pilots are seeking increased pay and more than the one weekend a month they are currently receiving, according to news reports. But their complains are of little concern to many hoping to reach Svalbard this weekend.

“With that mindset about customer service, I’m not sure to choose SAS in the future,” wrote one customer on SAS’ Facebook page who is scheduled to fly to Svalbard for the weekend.

The ski marathon is already encountering hardship, with a lack of snow forcing organizers to relocate the race from its traditional course into the glacial valley beyond the base of Mine 6 to the seaside and valley area at Hiorthamn across the bay from Longyearbyen.

SAS is still offering reassuring language to customers on its Facebook page, but press statements from the company aren’t as optimistic.

‘We believe and hope that we reach agreement in the negotiations so that it does not hit our customers,” the airline’s Facebook page states. “In general, in the event of traffic disruptions we will always notify our passengers of changes as soon as they arise, and what opportunities for cancellation and cancellation exist.”

The airline is allowing customers to rebook tickets without charge via its website and customer service phone lines.

However, Mariam Skovfoged, press manager for SAS in Denmark, told TV2 the pilots demands as the strike looms hours away remain unrealistic.

“The demands we have seen from the pilots are soaring and irresponsible in the competitive market we are in right now,” she said.