UPDATE Striking Swedish pilots resume talks with SAS

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STOCKHOLM: Striking Swedish SAS pilots and employer representatives returned to the negotiating table Sunday, the pilots’ union said on day three of a walkout over wages that has stranded 50,000 passengers and cost the carrier millions.

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“We are in talks now. Hopefully we will be able to come to an agreement,” SPF union chief Martin Lindgren told Agence France-Presse.

On Sunday, SAS cancelled 220 flights by Swedish pilots, affecting 26,000 passengers. On Friday and Saturday, another 24,000 passengers were stranded by cancelled flights.

Flights operated by Danish and Norwegian pilots were running as normal.

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

The strike began on Friday at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) after the pilots’ union rejected a proposed 2.2 percent wage increase, insisting on a hike of 3.5 percent.

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

“That would mean a cost increase of almost 100 million kronor ($12 million/10.7 million euros) a year for SAS. We can’t afford that given the current competition,” SAS chief executive Rickard Gustafson told news agency TT.

SAS said it had not calculated how much money it was losing because of the strike, but financial analysts estimated it was costing the airline at least $1.2 million (1.06 million euros) a day.

Analysts said the losses could be even greater if customers were to lose confidence in the airline’s dependability because of the strike.

“SAS has to weigh the loss of prestige against the consequences of higher wage costs… People might be hesitant to choose SAS next time,” air industry analyst Matts Hyttinge told TT. AFP

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