Icelandair has decided not to permanently fire every single one of its flight attendants and replace them with pilots after managing to hammer out a last-minute deal with the cabin crew union. On Friday, the Icelandic airline made the shock announcement that it planned to sack all of its flight attendants with no chance of them ever returning because negotiations on reaching a new collective bargaining agreement had reached a stalemate.
Under the original plan, Icelandair intended to dismiss its entire flight attendant workforce and from Monday, July 20, get pilots to take over their duties in the passenger cabin. Icelandair justified the decision because onboard service is currently limited as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, so pilots would need little training.
The pilots would, however, have needed to undergo a crash course in safety and emergency procedures and would likely have needed to obtain what’s known as a cabin crew attestation under European aviation rules.
Icelandair’s pilots had remained pretty quiet over what they thought about the plan, although the airline said they only wanted to use pilots temporarily while they found a completely new workforce of flight attendants.
That, though, is no longer necessary… much to the relief of everyone involved. At around 2 am (local time in Reykjavik) on Sunday morning, Icelandair announced it had managed to do a deal with the Cabin Crew Association after all. The mass dismissals are off the table and pilots will no longer become stand-in flight attendants.
“Despite failed negotiations between Icelandair and the Icelandic Cabin Crew Association (FFI), the parties have managed to resume discussions and have signed a new collective-bargaining agreement which is valid until 30 September 2025,” the airline said in a statement.
“The current agreement results in further reduction in operating cost without negatively affecting the employee terms of cabin crew member,” the statement continued. “Due to this progress, Icelandair’s pilots will not take over responsibility for onboard safety and the most recent cabin crew layoffs will be withdrawn.”
The deal, however, does still need to be approved by means of a vote by flight attendants. In the circumstances, and given what Icelandair was prepared to do to its workforce, the deal is likely to be given a green light. We’ll know for certain on July 27 when the vote concludes.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.