Scandinavian Airlines files for bankruptcy amid pilots' strike

Date: July 5, 2022
Type: AFA Article

By Kevin Granville, New York Times

A day after its pilots went on strike, SAS, the Scandinavian airline, said on Tuesday that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States, the latest reverberation in a summer of turmoil for European airlines.

SAS described the filing, made in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, as the “next step” in a reorganization that would address the money-losing airline’s financial difficulties, including cost reductions of more than $700 million. It said it was in discussions with potential lenders who could provide $700 million in financing to support operations through the Chapter 11 process. It expected to emerge from the process in nine to 12 months.

The company said many international airlines have used U.S. courts for bankruptcy proceedings because the Chapter 11 law offers advantages to businesses undergoing restructuring with divisions in different parts of the world.

SAS, which is the national airline of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, said it would continue flying, although on Monday it called the pilots’ strike “devastating” and warned that it could cause the cancellation of half of its flights, affecting about 30,000 passengers daily.

On Monday, SAS canceled 51 percent of its flights, according to FlightAware. By midday on Tuesday, nearly 80 percent of its flights had been canceled. SAS’s stock price fell about 15 percent Tuesday, extending a 5 percent decline the day before.

“The ongoing strike has made an already challenging situation even tougher,” Anko van der Werff, the airline’s chief executive, said in a statement on Tuesday.

SAS’s troubles come in a summer riddled with problems for the air travel industry, caused by staffing shortages and walkouts by employees unhappy with long hours and low pay that has failed to keep up with soaring inflation. Airports across Europe have been scenes of long lines of unhappy passengers, eager to travel after years of pandemic lockdowns.

Unable to find enough baggage handlers, check-in staff, security guards or aircraft crew, airlines and airports have been in a rush to cancel flights.

  • Last Friday and Saturday, a walkout by workers at Paris’s main airport caused the cancellation of as many as one in five flights. Another walkout is planned for this weekend.

  • A new round of cancellations at British Airways has reduced its schedule through October by 11 percent.

  • Brussels Airlines, a unit of Germany’s Lufthansa, said on Monday it would cancel about 6 percent of scheduled flights in July and August, to avoid strikes and reduce workloads. “The entire aviation sector is facing a turbulent summer,” the airline said.

  • A top executive at easyJet, a low-cost carrier based in Britain, stepped down on Monday after a series of flight cancellations. The airline said Peter Bellew, the company’s chief operating officer, had resigned and would “pursue other business opportunities.” Crews based in Spain have called for several days of strikes this month at easyJet as well as its low-cost rival, Ryanair.

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