Indigo Partners Invest in WOW air

The asset management company Indigo Partners have made a temporary agreement for an investment in Icelandic airline WOW air, Vísir reports. The plan is to finalise the agreement as soon as a due diligence inspection has been performed. Icelandair’s proposed purchase of WOW air had been canceled yesterday.

A statement posted on WOW air’s website states that founder and main shareholder Skúli Mogensen will remain the main owner of the company. The terms of the agreement between Indigo Partners and WOW air have not been released.

Indigo Partners headquarters are situated in Phoenix, USA. The company invests in the flight industry, and is the main investor in Tiger Airways from Singapore and Spirit Airlines from Florida, among others. Indigo is also one of the largest shareholders in Hungarian airline Wizz Air which flies to and from Iceland.

Ultra-low-cost airline

Indigo Partners specialise in transforming airlines into so-called ultra-low-cost airlines, where all service items are taken out of the flight ticket price. They have also been known to pay low wages, which is something that WOW air might have to adjust to, Vísir reports.

Svanhvít Friðriksdóttir, WOW air’s spokesperson has stated that the day is an important one in the airline’s history. “I’m over the moon to be able to share this with everybody! Thank you for having never stopped believing in this project of ours to build a world-class low-fare airline. There’s still a lot of work to be done but together we can continue working miracles. I thank you all,” Skúli Mogensen’s company-wide letter read.

Layoffs at WOW air and Airport Associates

WOW air has already announced that fifteen employees at Keflavík airport will be laid off. The company has stated that the sackings are part of a seasonal shift in the company’s operations, rather than being connected to Indigo Partners’ takeover. WOW air also recently cut four airplanes from its fleet, as they had not been sufficiently utilised in the company’s winter operations.

A total of 237 Airport Associates employees at Keflavík Airport have been laid off. Airport Associates is WOW air’s largest service contractor at Keflavík Airport. The layoffs have been reported to be connected to the projected problems with WOW air. Sigþór Kristinn Skúlason, Airport Associates CEO, has stated that these were necessary precautionary measures. He believes, however, that Airport Associates can rescind a large portion of the layoffs if Indigo Partners’ investment in WOW air goes through.

Tape Reveals Geir Haarde Appointed Ambassador as Political Favour

The already infamous recorded conversation between former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, former foreign minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, and four other Centre and People’s Party MPs has drawn considerable criticism across the political spectrum for the demeaning way in which the politicians spoke about their female colleagues. Stundin reports, however, that in the same conversation, Gunnar Bragi also spoke at length about the how he’d appointed former Prime Minister Geir Haarde to an ambassadorial position as a political favour that he expected to be rewarded for by current finance minister Bjarni Benediktsson.

Geir Haarde, a member of the Independence Party alongside Bjarni Benediktsson, was prime minister from 2006-2009 and left office amidst accusations of wrongdoing that led to Iceland’s financial collapse. Geir was later even tried by Iceland’s High Court on four charges of violating the constitution and was convicted of one, namely not having held cabinet meetings on important matters in the lead-up to the economic collapse.

In 2014, a few years after his trial and conviction, Geir was appointed as Iceland’s ambassador to the United States. At the same time, Left-Green MP Árni Þór Sigurðsson was appointed as Iceland’s ambassador to Finland. And according to what he says himself in the recorded conversation, Gunnar Bragi specifically appointed Árni Þór as ambassador as a way of distracting from the fact that he was also appointing Geir at the same time.

“I talked about it with the whole party,” he says in the recording. “I saw that I couldn’t appoint Geir ambassador alone, I couldn’t show favor to Geir alone; that would be too much for the parliament and everyone to swallow. So what I did was to make Árni Þór ambassador, which didn’t cost anything in reality – you must have noticed that he’s an idiot, thought he might be my cousin – and then what happens?”

“The core Left-Greens went crazy,” he continues, “but Katrín [Jakobsdóttir; then the chairperson of the Left-Greens] didn’t say a word.”

Gunnar Bragi continues that Geir thanked him afterwards, saying, “It made me crazy when you were making Árni Þór ambassador, but then all at once, I realized that the attention was all going to Árni and I was very happy.” He also credits the former Prime Minister with saying, “Thank you for that. No one criticized me.”

Gunnar Bragi, a member of the Progressive Party, apparently had personal motives for the appointment – pecifically, he’s had hopes of obtaining a position in the diplomatic service.  Sigmundur Davíð, acting as a go-between for Gunnar Bragi and Bjarni Benediktsson at the time of Geir’s ambassadorial appointment, passed these hopes along to Bjarni. Per the recording, Bjarni responded that if Gunnar named Geir Haarde as ambassador, he would “…be in with the Independence MPs.”

Politicians Across Spectrum Condemn MP Recording

MPs across the political spectrum have voiced their condemnation of a recording in which six MPs from the Centre and People’s Parties are heard to make sexist comments about their female colleagues. While many of the individuals caught out in the scandal have issued apologies or retractions, Stundin reports that former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson is instead trying to shift the blame to the media at large.

Sigmundur Davíð was recorded in a bar last week while in conversation with fellow Centre Party MPs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Bergþór Ólason, and Anna Kolbrún Árnadóttir, as well as with People’s Party MPs Karl Gauti Hjaltason and Ólafur Ísleifsson. During the course of the conversation, Sigmundur Davíð, Gunnar Bragi, and Berþór suggest that one politician should be placed lower on the candidates list in upcoming primaries because she was no longer as “hot” as she used to be. Two female MPs were characterized as “cunts,” and a number of additional sexist and offensive comments were also made. Ironically, both Sigmundur Davíð and Gunnar Bragi have been vocal supporters of women’s issues in the recent past. Per Stundin: “In 2015, Financial Times selected [Sigmundur Davíð] as one of the world’s top feminist men for supporting the UN’s He for She campaign. [Gunnar Bragi] was also a vocal supporter of the campaign, addressing the UN on gender equality and receiving praise from campaign leader and actress Emma Watson.”

 

“These Comments Condemn Themselves”

The fallout from the recording has been considerable, even drawing criticism from parliamentarians whose political agenda often aligns with those of the Centre and People’s Parties. “It is, of course, only they who must answer for these comments,” remarked Independence Party MP Áslaug Arna. “It’s unbelievable that such men – who are, obviously, a bunch of beauty contest winners themselves – are passing judgement on the appearance and abilities of female parliamentarians who they work with.”

A group of female MPs from various parties met on Thursday to discuss the tapes. Progressive Party MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir, one of the women named and insulted in the recording, was in attendance. “I’ve only just now seen the news and I’m speechless, at least for the time being,” she said told RÚV. “I think these comments condemn themselves. I don’t need to play judge and jury.”

Inga Sæland, chairman of the People’s Party who was also belittled by name said that her party’s leaders would be meeting to discuss the recording. “I’m not trying to offer reprimands to my colleagues,” she remarked in a radio interview with Rás 2. “Neither they nor others who smile at you in the hallways at the same time that they are clearly driving a knife into your back as you walk by.”

 

Apologies Issued

Since the recording was made public, Karl Gauti Hjaltason has issued a public apology, as did his fellow People’s Party MP Ólafur Ísleifsson. (Ólafur later told RÚV that he was not particularly concerned about any particular consequences as a result of the recording going public.) The four MPs from the Centre Party who were present during the conversation issued a group apology, saying “[i]t wasn’t our intention to hurt anyone and it’s clear that such kind of talk…is inexcusable. We will resolve to learn from this and will endeavor to show courtesy and respect for our colleagues.”

 

“Made to Sound Like Political Plotting”

Following the public apology, however, Sigmundur Davíð took to Facebook on Wednesday night to declaim the publication of the recording and the media’s coverage of the scandal. “In some of what’s been printed, there are intentional or unintentional misquotes about what was being talked about and who said what,” he writes. The conversations of parliamentarians who are sitting together for a while and joking with one another is, moreover, made to sound like political plotting.”

“In reality,” he continues, “the most serious thing is that in Iceland, people have started to engage in tapping the private conversations of politicians…The group that is referred to sat alone in a corner and therefore, what we’re talking about here is nothing other than that someone has broken into one of the phones of someone who was there or used bugging equipment.”

“I don’t remember an example of something like this in Icelandic political history, and only one example from the UK,” the post continues. “It was when agents of the newspaper News of the World recorded a phone conversation between politicians and other well-known people. That conduct was treated as a serious matter and action was taken accordingly. I hope that this will be the case in Iceland, too. Otherwise, Icelandic politics and Icelandic society will change radically.”