Budget carrier Norwegian failed to prevent a third consecutive day of strike action by pilots after a deadline to resolve the dispute passed without a conclusion yesterday afternoon.
Almost all domestic flights will be cancelled in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, affecting about 35,000 passengers due to the ongoing industrial action today (Friday).
This means that flights involving more than 100,000 passengers will have been grounded since Wednesday in addition to an initial walkout by pilots last weekend.
The carrier described the situation as being a “state of emergency” due to the action by an estimated 700 pilots at its Norwegian Air Norway business.
Attempts to re-start negotiations with pilot unions broke down late on Wednesday, prompting the carrier to impose a deadline of 3pm yesterday as “one last opportunity” to negotiate a settlement.
However, the deadline was missed despite the airline’s attempt to get Norway’s national mediator Nils Dalseide to step in to help.
Norwegian chief executive Bjørn Kjos warned that the pilot strike could only continue for a matter of weeks before putting the survival of the company at risk.
“There are countless examples of unions striking companies into bankruptcy,” he warned, as he gave his first press conference since the company’s pilots called a strike on Saturday, adding that carrier could “not afford to take losses indefinitely”.
He estimated that the company had the financial firepower to withstand the strike at least into next week.
“We’ll probably survive next week too,” he was reported by local media as saying. “But it will hammer the company, and it will put it back and maybe lead to some routes being shelved.”
Kjos warned that if the strike continues into next week it could mean the company repeating the annual loss it posted for 2014.
“It is not easy to turn a large loss to a profit, so we could very quickly find that we are making a loss,” he said.
Kjos said the airline could simply not afford to grant pilots the collective employment agreement they are demanding.
“We must accept that the temperature is high,” he said. “They know perfectly well what is possible. They want to have control over all flights in and out of Scandinavia. This is of course impossible.”
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