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Icelandair Sacks All of its Flight Attendants and Replaces Them With Pilots

Icelandair Sacks All of its Flight Attendants and Replaces Them With Pilots

Icelandair has fired all of its flight attendants after failing to reach an agreement with the Cabin Crew Association of Iceland (FFI) over a new collective bargaining agreement and will instead replace them with pilots, not all of whom are currently required for flying duties due to the Corona crisis. The airline and cabin crew union leaders reached a stalemate over stalled negotiations earlier this month.

In a statement, the Reykjavík-based airline said “it has now become evident that a mutually agreed conclusion will not be reached” between Icelandair and cabin crew representatives. Icelandair had wanted cabin crew to agree to major concessions in pay and conditions written as part of the new agreement which would have lasted through to 2025.

A spokesperson for the airline said a new collective bargaining agreement was essential to “ensure the long-term competitiveness of the company while safeguarding the competitive compensation and working conditions of the Company’s cabin crew members.”

“Icelandair has been exploring other options regarding safety and service onboard its aircraft. As a result, the Company will instruct its pilots to assume responsibility for safety on board,” a statement from Icelandair continued.

While the airline didn’t detail exactly how these arrangements would work, it’s likely that extra pilots will be called to work flights in addition to the rostered Captain, First Officer and any other flight crew required on the flight deck.

The extra pilots will assume the normal positions of flight attendants in the passenger cabin and will be given expedited training in safety and emergency procedures. Similar tactics have been used by other airlines in the past, most notably British Airways, which used pilot volunteers to break a cabin crew strike in 2010.

Pilots are not normally given training on most cabin crew emergency duties as part of their everyday employment.

Icelandair doesn’t expect to provide much service training to pilots because onboard services remain heavily curtailed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move to replace fully trained cabin crew with pilots will only be a temporary measure and Icelandair intends to seek an alternative union partner. Icelandair suggested cabin crew would have no chance of being allowed back even if they agree to a new contract saying it would “permanently terminate the employment of its current cabin crew members.”

It’s not clear whether aviation regulators may raise objections about losing all of the experience that cabin crew at the airline have acquired.

Pilots will take over all safety duties from July 20.

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