A few weeks ago, Icelandair made headlines for its plan to fire all flight attendants and temporarily replace them with pilots. Now the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), which represents over five million transport workers in 41 countries, is condemning the actions of the company’s pilots.
Icelandair’s cabin crew dispute
Back in mid-July, Icelandair revealed a plan to lay off all flight attendants. The intent was for flight attendants to temporarily be replaced by pilots, given the excess pilots the company has as it’s operating a limited schedule. The company was then going to find “another party in the Icelandic labor market” to assume this role long-term.
This decision came after members of Icelandair’s flight attendant union voted against a collective bargaining agreement about a year ago.
Fortunately following this threat, management and the union came to an agreement, and signed a new collective bargaining agreement, valid through September 2025.
Icelandair pilots are now in hot water
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but the ETF is now condemning the actions of Icelandair management, as well as the actions of Icelandair’s pilots. The organization isn’t happy that Icelandair pilots were essentially complicit in undermining the position of cabin crew, and argues that their actions put the professional image of pilots, as well as safety standards, at risk.
Here’s part of the announcement from the ETF:
The ETF and the ETF Pilot community deplore this unprecedented attack on the legitimate rights of workers and their union and this flagrant breach of safety obligations by Icelandair.
We strongly condemn both the behaviour of the company – offensive both towards cabin crew and pilots – as well as the actions of the pilots. Indeed, the pilots did not reject the call of the company and instead made themselves available to undermine the position of the cabin crew and thereby put the professional image of pilots as well as safety standards at risk.
The ETF Pilot community cannot stress enough that one category of workers should never be used to undermine the position of others and that no group of workers shall ever voluntarily engage in actions which could undermine the working conditions of other groups of workers.
I’m happy that Icelandair management and cabin crew were able to come to a new agreement. I was a bit surprised when Icelandair pilots agreed to assume the roles of cabin crew in this dispute, since typically unionized workforces at least somewhat act in solidarity.
With Icelandair having reached a new agreement with cabin crew I can’t imagine this is exactly great for labor relations between pilots and flight attendants…