Icelandair Lets Go Of All Its Cabin Crew As Negotiations Fail

Icelandair will fire of its cabin crew employees after the carrier fails to agree on a collective bargaining agreement with its labor association. From 20 July onwards, the pilots of the Icelandic carrier will be in charge of onboard safety. What does this mean for the company? Let’s investigate further.

Icelandair 757
Icelandair fired all of its cabin crews. Photo: Getty Images

There was no contract since 2019

The flight attendants of Icelandair are represented by the Icelandic Cabin Crew Association (FFÍ, in Icelandic). Since January 2019, they had no valid contract and were in talks with the national carrier.

On 8 July, the members of FFÍ rejected a new collective-bargaining agreement. This accord had been agreed to and signed previously by the parties’ negotiation committees, said Icelandair.

The carrier added that the negotiations continued even after the results of the voting. But now, “it has become evident that a mutually agreed conclusion will not be reached,” said Icelandair.

As a result, Icelandair is permanently terminating the employment of its current cabin crew members. Additionally, it will permanently discontinue the employment relationship with FFÍ.

But how did we come to this?

Icelandair Lets Go Of All Its Cabin Crew As Negotiations Fail
The flight attendants of Icelandair didn’t have a contract since 2019. Photo: Thomas Boon/Simple Flying

Icelandair considered negotiating a new trade union

Both parties were engaged in wage discussions for months. According to local sources like Grapevine, in May, the relationship between Icelandair and FFÍ was very delicate.

One of Icelandair’s proposal was to increase the working hours of its cabin crews. Nevertheless, the carrier wanted to keep the payroll without any increases. FFÍ said that this measure was equal to a 40% pay cut, so it rejected the plan.

Right around that time, media outlets reported that Icelandair was looking at new unions, which, understandably, frightened the FFÍ.

Then, by the end of June, it seemed like the labor dispute between both parties had come to an end. Local newspapers reported that representatives of Icelandair and FFÍ had come to an arrangement after a 16-hour-long meeting. The new contract would have last until 30 September 2025. But everything fell down after the FFÍ members voted against the new accord.

Icelandair, Boeing 767, Heart Flight Path
In the meantime, pilots of Icelandair will take charge of the onboard safety. Photo: Getty Images

What will happen now?

While Icelandair finds a new labor association and new cabin crews, the pilots will take charge of the onboard safety. This measure is possible due to the current coronavirus crisis, which has led to a decrease in the number of operations worldwide.

In June, Icelandair had a decrease of 96% in its total capacity, compared with 2019. The total number of international passengers was around 18,500 compared to the 553,000 of June’s 2019. Additionally, the Icelandic carrier had a load factor of 50.9%.

Icelandair said,

“The Company will instruct its pilots to assume responsibility for safety on board, but services will continue to be at a minimum, as it has since the impact of COVID-19 started.”

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next weeks. The Icelandic pilots have shown us the love they have for their carrier and the air industry in the past. Nevertheless, we could see a strike shortly.

FFÍ warns of a possible strike

In a statement, seen by Simple Flying, the FFÍ condemned the decision by Icelandair. The union said,

“Icelandair’s decision puts FFÍ in the precarious position of having to start preparations for immediate and extensive strike action. FFÍ is a member of the Icelandic Confederation of Labor and an international trade union and has full support for its actions. The strength of solidarity will be used with full force.”

The Icelandic Airline Pilots Association has not issued a statement on the subject.

Have you ever heard of a similar scenario in aviation history? Let us know in the comments.