A total of 1,409 pilots were on strike, affecting domestic, European, and long-haul flights, SAS said, predicting that 170,000 passengers would be affected through Sunday.
The Swedish Air Line Pilots Association, which initiated the strike, said months of negotiations had failed to find a solution to the pilots’ “deteriorating work conditions, unpredictable work schedules and job insecurity.”
The Swedish Confederation of Transport Enterprises, meanwhile, said it could not accept the 13-percent wage increase demanded by the pilots, given their “already high average wage of 93,000 kronor (8,766 euros, 9,769 dollars) a month.”
The pilots’ association said work schedules, and not wages, were the main focus of the negotiations, as most SAS pilots have to work at variable times and days.
“Many SAS pilots have no control over when and how long they have to work. In a worst-case scenario, they risk having to work seven weekends in a row,” the pilots’ association said in a statement.
“Everyone who has a family life can imagine how difficult it is to not know when you have to work,” SAS’ Swedish union representative at the pilots’ association, Wilhelm Tersmeden, said.
SAS contacted most passengers before the cancellations to warn them of the strike and offered to rebook them at no extra cost.
On Friday, many travelers turned up at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport in the hopes of getting on other flights.
The strike affected about 70 percent of SAS flights, with the remainder operated by partner airlines.
SAS has implemented repeated savings programs in recent years to improve its profitability, after teetering on the brink of bankruptcy in 2012. In the first quarter of 2019, the airline widened its losses, impacted by negative exchange effects and high fuel prices. It posted a net loss of 469 million kronor, compared to 249 million a year earlier, but forecast a full-year profit.
Danish bank Sydbank on Friday predicted the strike would cost SAS 60 to 80 million kronor per day.
A protracted strike, and the added pressure of meeting the pilots’ demands, could put SAS in a precarious financial position, eating away at much of the profit expected this year, Sydbank analyst Jacob Pedersen told Swedish news agency TT.
“That could jeopardize the airline’s future,” Pedersen said.
The SAS share price was down by 5.6 percent in mid-morning trading, while Stockholm’s OMX 30 index was down 0.3 percent.