Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has filed for bankruptcy in the United States, warning that the walkout of 1,000 pilots a day ago put the future of their careers at risk.
With the onset of the summer vacation period, the move increases the likelihood of travel chaos across Europe.
The Stockholm-based group said it had “voluntarily applied for Chapter 11 in the United States, a legal process for financial restructuring conducted under the supervision of a US federal court.”
The civil lawsuit filed for Chapter 11 in New York withheld when the business restructured its finances, known as SAS Forward.
SAS said its activities and flight schedule would not be affected by the announcement.
CEO Anko van der Werf said the strike had accelerated the move. “I think we were very clear that this could happen,” he said.
“The important thing is it’s about bankruptcy protection, it’s not about bankruptcy, it’s about financial restructuring.”
The carrier said it was “in close discussion with a number of potential lenders … to support its activities throughout this court-supervised process”.
The rescue plan, presented in February, is designed to ensure long-term competition.
The pilots reacted sharply to the news of the Chapter 11 filing. Roger Clocksett, head of the SAS Pilots Union, said the group had “extended negotiations and mediation from November last year to the day before the application, without ever intending to enter into an agreement with SAS pilots”.
Pilots in Denmark, Sweden and Norway on Monday expressed dissatisfaction with carriers to fill vacancies at its partner airlines, SAS Link and SAS Connect, citing inadequate salaries and working conditions and dissatisfaction with the decision to hire new pilots. Hire ex-company pilots because of the epidemic.
Mr Van der Werf said the strike was “devastating for SAS and put the company’s future and the jobs of thousands of colleagues at risk”.
The walkout could result in the cancellation of about 50% of all scheduled SAS flights, affecting about 30,000 passengers per day.
Flights operated by external partners of SAS Link, SAS Connect and SAS are not affected.
The airline is partially owned by the governments of Sweden and Denmark.
In 2018, Norway sold its stake but the airline has debt and said it may be willing to convert it into equity.