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SAS A320neo (photo: SAS)

SAS rejects compensation – but is it correct?

The airline’s view that passengers are not entitled to compensation from strike delays is likely to be challenged.

As the number of passengers hit by the ongoing SAS pilots’ strike continues to mount, the Scandinavian carrier says it will reject all compensation claims.

European Union law enshrines the rights of consumers. But the thousands of passengers affected by the SAS strike does not count, according to the airline.

Passengers hit by major flight delays or cancellations are entitled to monetary compensation, EU law states. Lengthy delays can result in compensation of up to €600.

However, passengers’ access to these benefits depends on whether the flight delay or cancellation is the fault of the airline.

The delay or cancellation must be due to “extraordinary circumstances”, which is defined as events that could not have been avoided – even if the airline takes all reasonable measures.

A SAS spokesman told the Norwegian aviation website flysmart24.no that it sees the pilot strike as being beyond its control and will therefore reject all compensation claims.

“Passengers are not entitled to compensation when the delay is caused by a strike, as that is considered an extraordinary circumstance that is outside the airline’s actual control,” Morten Johansen, the carrier’s information manager, said.

Passengers’ rights
But this viewpoint is likely to be challenged. The Danish companies Flyforsinkelse and Flyhjælp, which both focus on the rights of airline passengers, say that SAS customers affected by the strike are entitled to compensation, The Local reports.

The Danish firms point to a decision by the EU Court of Justice a year ago, which ruled that a strike by flight staff “does not constitute an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ releasing the airline from its obligation to pay compensation.”

In that decision, the European court said that future compensation claims emanating from airline strikes would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

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