20,000 stranded: 159 flights cancelled

Passengers wait for flight information at Arlanda Airport on June 11, 2016 in Sigtuna near Stockholm. Some 400 Swedish SAS pilots walked off the job on Friday in a dispute over wages and working conditions, stranding 4,000 passengers, the Scandinavian carrier said. "The Swedish pilots union has called 400 members on short-haul flights out on strike. Both domestic and European flights from Sweden are cancelled," the company said in a statement. (AFP)

Around 20,000 passengers were stranded on Saturday after Scandinavian airline SAS cancelled 159 flights due to a Swedish pilots' strike that entered its second day, SAS said.

"We have done all that's in our power to avoid a strike, but we have unfortunately been unable to come to an agreement. Our main priority now is to take care of our customers and (we) are working vigilantly to do everything we can to assist passengers affected," SAS spokeswoman Karin Nyman said in a statement.

SAS flights flown by Danish and Norwegian pilots were to operate as normal, she said.

The walkout comes during SAS' peak season, and has hit charter groups hard.

"Many flights are of course fully booked, so the chances of rebooking a flight are not the best. We're doing what we can to help in the best way possible and find alternatives for our travellers," Nyman told news agency TT.

The strike broke out Friday at 6:00 pm (1600 GMT), after the Swedish pilots union SPF rejected the mediators' proposal of a 2.2 percent wage increase, insisting on a 3.5 percent increase.

The employers' organisation insisted however that the pilots' overall demands, including employment contracts offering greater job security, would entail a 10 percent cost increase.

"We want our employees to feel secure in their jobs, but the pilots' wage demands are just too high. We can't afford to pay that much given the competitive (air travel) market," SAS chief executive Rickard Gustafson said Friday before the strike broke out.

No date has been set yet for new negotiations.

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