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SAS to save on big pilot changeover

Almost half of all of the airline’s pilots are expected to retire in the next ten years – bringing young blood, plus savings, for the company.

Nearly half of the pilots at SAS are due to retire over the next ten years, helping the airline to save a great deal of money in terms of pilots’ salaries, media reports suggest.

The savings will come as a record number of pilots plan to retire over the coming years and newer, younger employees will be paid far less in wages compared to senior pilots, the Swedish financial newspaper Dagens Industri writes.

About 700 of SAS’s 1,500 pilots will retire over the next decade, which is twice as many as in the last decade.

At the same time, a major recruitment drive will be launched, with the same number of new pilots being employed.

“The demographics among pilots will change during this period,” Peter Hyldig, chief pilot at SAS, explains to Dagens Industri.

“A number of pilots begin to reduce their working hours at the age of 55 and people retire between 60 and 65. Currently our average age is 50, while many of the new recruits are in the 20s.”

Pay scale
This year, 70-80 captains are retiring from SAS, while 90 new officers are being employed in the company. From 2021, around 100 pilots will be employed each year.

The captains who are leaving are at the top of the pay scale, which at SAS consists of 24 steps, while the new pilots begin at the bottom of the scale. A co-pilot can be paid less than half of a captain’s salary.

“That the demographics are more balanced will benefit our economic situation over these years, which means that the costs on average are falling,” says Hyldig.

Pilot shortage
However, the retirement of so many pilots can also bring challenges to SAS, as there is an ongoing lack of pilots around the world, increasing competition among airlines for recruiting pilots.

“The next ten years will be critical for the global pilot situation. Fortunately, SAS is in a position where many pilots choose to join us,” Hyldig thinks.

He adds that SAS is working to improve the work-life balance for employees and give them a greater influence on planning. For future generations, this will be vital.

“It will be a critical factor in the future, especially as the family structure changes. We see an increase in how many pilots want to take parental leave, where Sweden is at the front and Norway and Denmark are following, though a few years behind.”

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