It has recently emerged that SAS Scandinavian Airlines cancelled around 700 flights in a three-month period between April and June of 2018 due to staff shortages. The most recent cancellations – 25 more flights cancelled in total over the weekend and a further 40 expected this week - were announced by the carrier on July 29, 2018. The flight disruptions are reportedly linked to SAS Scandinavian Airlines’ Irish subcontractor CityJet as well as SAS Irish subsidiary SAS Ireland.

According to Swedish and Norwegian media, the flight cancellations are linked to CityJet, SAS’ wet lease partner, as well as SAS Irish subsidiary SAS Ireland (SAIL). There are reports that both have experienced crew shortages, resulting in the parent company taking over their flights, and cabin crew members having to take on work in their free time.

Disgruntled crew

The Scandinavian airline’s recently established subsidiary, SAS Ireland (2017), flies routes across its parent airline’s network. Norway’s news service ABC Nyheter reports that 26 of SAS Ireland pilots signed a letter to the airline’s management regarding poor working conditions – claiming the agency through which they are employed is forcing them to “compromise safety”.

A spokesperson for SAS, Troels Karlskov, confirmed to ABC Nyheter that the airline received the letter, saying the company wants to “find a good solution for the situation”. He also said that SAS regrets the cancelled flights, but would not comment on whether the disruptions are linked to SAIL and/or City Jet.

Ireland, again?

Why is CityJet linked to the dire situation at SAS? The Irish carrier wet leases aircraft and crew to fly regional routes for the Scandinavian airline. According to the Irish Times, a spokesperson for CityJet admitted that crew shortages “had an impact” on the number of flights it operated during the summer season.

Highlighting that the carrier has “a steady flow of pilots” joining its ranks, the spokesperson pointed out that, “in common with most regional airlines, we are also experiencing crews moving to other airlines to fly on larger craft, creating a temporary shortfall,” he was quoted as saying by the Irish Times.

700 and counting

On top of the axed 700 departures, SAS canceled another 25 flights this weekend, July 28-29, 2018. The airline also reportedly published information on its website announcing that a further 40 flights would be cancelled this week, before the post was suddenly deleted, Swedish news SVT Nyheter observed.

A spokeswoman for SAS, Kandi Paasta, told AeroTime via phone that the media reports have been “blown out of proportion”, emphasizing the increased demand during the peak summer season. “Just to be clear, we have 900 flights a day in the high season. And that is one to two percent of all flights that have been canceled,” Paasta said, adding that, “We are flying with all we’ve got”.

As to the causes of the cancellations, Paasta confirmed crew shortages at SAS but explained there are “a number of reasons” for the disruptions, including poor weather conditions. The spokeswoman also confirmed that flight cancellations are expected to continue throughout the peak season, which ends in mid-August.

Meanwhile, passengers whose flights were canceled over the weekend, shave been expressing their frustration on social media. One passenger, just two days ago, said this about her trip with SAS Scandinavian Airlines on TripAdvisor:

“We arrived in Sweden at 1PM and we were supposed to leave on a flight to Athens at 5PM. At 3PM we went to check which gate we would be leaving out of, and discovered our flight had been cancelled. We received no email notifying us of the cancellation.”