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Icelandair Replaces Flight Attendants with Pilots

In the midst of a labor union fight, Icelandair decided to fire all of their flight attendants, citing the lack of passenger demand. Until a new class of cabin staff are hired, the airline will ask pilots to work in their place.

The cabin crew on your next Icelandair flight might not look like traditional flight attendants, as the airline may temporarily replace them with pilots. The Reykjavik Grapevine reports the airline will fire all of their current attendant staff, asking their aviators to take up cabin duties.

Firing Comes After Conflict with Labor Union

Icelandair’s move is the latest in a year-long conflict between the airline and the FFÍ labor union. Since 2019, the flight attendants say they have been fighting with the airline over wages and time off.

In June 2020, unionized flight attendants denied a new collective bargaining agreement, with nearly three-quarters of the workforce voting it down. In a statement, the union says the demands of the airline went too far.

As a result, the airline has opted to fire their entire flight attendant corps. Instead of the FFÍ unionized labor, Icelandair says they will look for “another party in the Icelandic labor market” to take on the duties.

Until the airline decides on a new path forward, pilots currently working for the airline will be asked to take on flight attendant duties. In a statement to reporters, the airline says firing the flight attendants was “heavy but necessary, as it is clear that talks between the two parties aren’t going any further.”

In a response, the FFÍ labor union told the Reykjavik Grapevine they would “explore every avenue to prevent this.” In regards to the airline potentially replacing this union with another, the union said the shift “…shows disrespect for the workers and disrespect for the rules in place regarding the Icelandic labor market and those in the midst of negotiations.”

Difficult Times Ahead for Aviation Workers Around the World

Although the Icelandair move was not directly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines around the world are looking to reduce their staff. Because air travel demand is decimated, airlines say they are overstaffed for the flights they plan to operate.

Earlier in July 2020, United Airlines sent WARN notices to over 30,000 employees, noting them that furloughs and layoffs were ahead. American Airlines followed suit, sending 25,000 employees the same notice. In an interview with Fox Business, Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian said they may be able to avoid layoffs, after 20 percent of the workforce took early retirement packages.

LifeontheBeach July 30, 2020

This is hilarious! Pilots serving drinks. I will ride on this Airline just for the laughs!!

Bradhattan July 22, 2020

I said i wanted two limes in my G&T....now use those wings and get me more limes! Hmmmm....not gonna be pretty!

jrpallante July 22, 2020

I love to see a good case of union busting.

aethelwulf July 22, 2020

How many flight attendants did they have? Iceland has a population of less than 400,000; it's more like a community than a country. Is that a big enough pool to draw from to find a whole new set of staff?

tracon July 21, 2020