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Icelandair Replaces Flight Attendants with Pilots

Icelandair Replaces Flight Attendants with Pilots
Joe Cortez

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.

View Comments (15)


  1. apwood

    July 17, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    Right – so if that is how IcelandAir treat staff – I will never again fly with them.

  2. zarkov505

    July 17, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    As I recall, flight attendants require specialized training on the airplane systems that they have to use and operate. This training is not covered in flying school, and is not covered in type rating school. How does Icelandair plan to ensure that the retreaded pilots have the necessary training, on Day One, to be able to perform the duties of Flight Attendant, SAFELY, and continue to ensure passenger safety?

    This seems likely to blow up in Icelandair’s face.

  3. OZFLYER86

    July 17, 2020 at 7:56 pm

    buyers market right now & for a long time to come

  4. CaptHolic

    July 18, 2020 at 4:51 am


    Unions exist to protect a very small segment of the workforce that has specific education / skill sett that limits employment options. If you studied for the medical field in a regulated country like Canada. You can only work for the government so your employment options are extremely limited. Union power has a place.

    Sorry flight attendants, You may be highly experienced but your skill set can be used in other industries making your employment options plenty. In your industry, unions are nothing more than a bullying tactic against your employer…

  5. Boggie Dog

    July 18, 2020 at 7:35 am

    Will using pilots meet FAA’s Flight Attendant requirements for flights to the U.S.?

  6. WillTravel4Food


    July 18, 2020 at 8:24 am

    Flight attendants have qualification standards they must meet to perform their duties. They have aircraft ratings, just like pilots. If they use pilots as replacements, the assigned personnel will be required to meet the same standards. That means they’ll be sending pilots to FA school to learn the job. Interesting question here is what rate will the pilots make while working the back of the plane? And would their union allow this to even happen? This could also be an exceptionally expensive endeavor. Rated Captains make substantially more than even the most senior FAs.

    Regarding FAA requirements, they don’t apply given Iceland Air is a foreign carrier. They’ll be required to comply with Iceland’s regulations. There are some 14 CFR Part 129 requirements that foreign airlines comply with to be authorized to fly commercially into the US, but I’m not sure what all that would entail. FAA does perform audits of foreign CAA, but not the airlines. Essentially, they check to see if the CAA complies with ICAO standards, and if they do then the FAA accepts certificates (airlines, pilots, etc) issued by that CAA. Verifying Iceland Air is in compliance with Icelandic aviation regulations is not something that FAA is qualified to perform.

  7. afCAMEO


    July 18, 2020 at 10:28 am

    Perhaps CaptHolic forgets that he/she has a 40 hour workweek due to the “small ” segment of the workforce in the unions. Perhaps he forgets that the union is there not just to protect the financial well-being of the associated segment but also to protect their safety, and that of the people they are serving. If the corporate world did what it was supposed to do in support of that mission unions would be unnecessary.

  8. El Puerco Volante

    July 19, 2020 at 6:45 am

    Well done. Don’t wanna work – get out!

  9. Tino

    July 21, 2020 at 4:17 am

    No, they didn’t. Please retract this article. I am sure that when the concept of this came up, the FAA and many other regulators said, “not in my country you won’t”.

  10. moeve

    July 21, 2020 at 4:39 am

    You guys own me a new keyboard…..

    Ok which of these is the most likely? Pilots taking all the passenger B****t for nex to nothing (that is if Icelandair only wants to pay them FA wages) or that Icelandair is going to continue pays pilot salaries for FA duties in which case is would probably have been cheaper to deal with the union. Come on REALLY so how was your trip down the rabbit hole iWonderland……

    Now should Icelandair survive current realities these pilots will need to work with FA s in the future so guess how that relationship will go down?! No more coffee for the front….. and that if I were betting will be the least of the retaliation.

  11. aethelwulf

    July 22, 2020 at 4:59 am

    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?

  12. jrpallante

    July 22, 2020 at 5:10 am

    I love to see a good case of union busting.

  13. Bradhattan

    July 22, 2020 at 4:47 pm

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

  14. LifeontheBeach

    July 30, 2020 at 9:03 am

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

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