In Focus: Tourism Industry Strikes

hotel workers strike Reykjavík

Since the banking collapse just over ten years ago, Iceland has largely pulled itself back from the brink thanks to a tourism boom. So it’s a great irony that many of the lowest-paid individuals working in this economically integral industry continue to struggle to make ends meet. This state of affairs came to the forefront […]

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Icelandair Explains Steep Price Hikes Following WOW Closure

Icelandair

Icelandair issued a statement assuring customers that no price changes were going into effect due to WOW air’s closure. Stundin reported, however, that the airline’s ticket prices have risen rapidly: up to 200% on some routes in just a few days. Following WOW air’s announcement yesterday that the company was ceasing operations, the value of Icelandair stocks went up by 13%. At the same time that Icelandair shares were rising, the stocks of most other companies on the Iceland Stock Exchange were losing value.

Increased demand drives price hikes

Higher prices since WOW’s announcement are a consequence of increased demand, says Icelandair, which has caused customers to buy up the lowest fares. “The price of airline tickets is based on demand and in recent days and weeks, there has been a significant demand for our flights, and now as well due to the discounted rates we’re offering WOW passengers. In some cases, there are only first class seats available or else flights are fully booked.”

Icelandair released a discount price schedule for stranded WOW air passengers on Thursday afternoon. Per the announcement on their website, the discount fares are only available to travelers who have already embarked on their journey, and who have a return ticket with WOW air between March 28 and April 11. Fares are based on availability, but are currently listed as $60 to and from Europe; $100 to and from North America, and $160 on Europe-North America or North America-Europe flights (via Keflavík).

Prices could rise in future

Airline competition will not be enough to maintain low flight prices to and from Iceland, according to one specialist. Kristján Sigurjónsson, journalist and editor of Icelandic travel media outlet Túristi, told RÚV it is likely the cost of flights to and from the country will rise in the coming months. “Flight prices have been unusually low and we passengers have been flying at the cost of [airlines] in recent years and that is unlikely to continue,” Kristján stated, adding that while competition between airlines may temporarily keep prices low on certain routes, they will likely rise.

Does Iceland have a naming committee for pets as well?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1553856588000{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Q: In Iceland, you need permission from a naming committee to name your children. Do you also have to get permission to name your pets?

A: Iceland indeed has a committee known as the Personal Names Committee which keeps track of all approved Icelandic given names and functions as a gatekeeper for the introduction of new given names into Icelandic culture. It was established in 1991 with the goal of ensuring new given names fit into Iceland’s language and culture. If a name is not on the official list of approved names, then an approval request must be submitted to the naming committee before the name can be given. The committee judges if names agree with Icelandic tradition and how likely they are to cause the bearers harm.

Now, let’s talk about pets. The answer to this is simple: you don’t need permission to name your pets. There is, however, a Horse Naming Committee. Horse owners only have to submit horse names to that committee if they want to enter their horse in official competitions. The Horse Naming Committee has only recently been formed and was deemed a necessary evil to preserve the Icelandic language. The committee checks if names are compatible with Icelandic grammar rules, but also if they are vulgar or form an acronym, so it works quite similarly to the Personal Names Committee. Marketing seems to be a motivating factor behind the Horse Naming Committee as well: it appears most people don’t like buying Icelandic horses with foreign names.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Russian Bombers Re-Enter NATO Airspace Near Iceland

Two Russian bombers flew into the NATO airspace surveillance area near Iceland late on Wednesday night. According to a press release issued by the Icelandic Coast Guard, the two planes neither announced themselves to air traffic control nor had their radio transponders on. It is the second time this month Russian aircraft enter NATO airspace in the region.

In accordance with NATO regulations, two Italian fighter jets—both in Iceland as part of a four-week NATO deployment—were sent to identify the unknown aircrafts. The unknown aircrafts were identified as two Russian Tupolev Tu-142 (Bear F) bombers. Although the Russian planes were in NATO’s airspace surveillance area, they were not within Icelandic airspace.

Two Russian bombers of the same make flew unannounced into the NATO airspace surveillance area near Iceland earlier this month, at which time, the Icelandic Coast Guard took the same measures, sending the Italian fighter jets to identify them.

The Coast Guard indicated in Thursday’s announcement that NATO airspace policing near Iceland is still in effect. As of March 11, however, four Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon EF-2000 fighter jets also arrived in Iceland. Per an announcement on the Allied Air Command website, these jets are on a “four-week deployment to deliver NATO Airborne Surveillance and Intercept Capabilities to meet Iceland’s Peacetime Preparedness Needs.” The project is under the jurisdiction of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Center in Uedem, Germany, but is under the direction of the Icelandic Coast Guard in Iceland, in collaboration with Isavia.

 

Sigur Rós Charged with Tax Fraud

sígur rós tax case

Four members of experimental rock band Sigur Rós have been charged with tax evasion, RÚV reports. Georg Holm, Kjartan Sveinsson, Orri Páll Dýrason, and frontman Jón Þór Birgisson (‘Jónsi’) have been charged with failing to correctly declare income and dividends.

All of the band members except Kjartan Sveinsson are charged with major tax fraud by having submitted fundamentally incorrect tax returns from 2011 through 2014. Kjartan is charged with having submitted incorrect tax returns for the years 2012 and 2014.

Jónsi is accused of having evaded income taxes amounting to ISK 30 million [$245,059; €218,248] and capital gains tax of up to ISK 13 million [$106,184; €94,567]. According to his indictment, he failed to declare ISK 75 million [$612,498; €545,515] in income and dividends of ISK 67 million [$547,299; €545,515]. The auditor reviewing Sigur Rós’s tax returns also indicated that Jónsi did not correctly file his tax returns for 2014 and 2015 and in so doing, evaded income tax of as much as ISK 22.6 million [$184,566; €164,383] and capital gains tax of up to ISK 10 million [$81,673; €72,737].

Georg Holm, the band’s bassist, is charged with evading income tax of up to ISK 35 million [$285,880; € 254,550] and capital gains tax of ISK 9.5 million [$77,596; €69,093]. According to the charges, Georg’s income during the period covered by the indictment was ISK 79 million [$645,532; € 574,824], with dividends of ISK 47 million [$383,896; €341,984].

Kjartan Sveinsson, who left the band six years ago, is accused of having evaded income tax of ISK 18 million [$147,035; €130,913] on an alleged income of ISK 42 million [$343,056; €305,433].

Orri Páll Dýrason, who left the band in October amidst sexual assault allegations, is charged with having evaded income tax of ISK 36 million [$294,094; €261,823] and capital gains tax of up to ISK 9.5 million [$77,602; €69,092]. During the time period in question, Orri Páll had an income of ISK 81 million [$661,660; €589,099, with dividends of as much as ISK 47 million [$383,957; €341,835].

No court date has yet been set for the band members, but while the case is pending trial, their assets have been frozen. The majority of these assets belong to Jónsi, who currently resides in Los Angeles, California, in the US.

Throughout the audit, the band members have maintained their innocence and said that they had, in good faith, left their financial affairs in the hands of experts hired to handle their taxes and financial management. Their lawyer, Bjarnfreður Ólafsson, echoed this in a statement, saying “The members of Sigur Rós are musicians – not experts on bookkeeping and international finance.”

 

As Many as 700 Jobs Lost in Reykjanesbær Following WOW air Closure

WOW - Icelandair - Keflavík Airport

Six to seven hundred residents in the Reykjanesbær municipality in Southwestern Iceland could lose their jobs as a result of WOW air ceasing service, RÚV reports. Reykjanesbær includes the town of Keflavík, as well as Njarðvík and the village of Hafnir. WOW air officially ceased operations and cancelled all of its flights as of Thursday.

“This is a great blow to the Icelandic nation and especially Reykjanesbær,” remarked mayor Fríðjón Einarsson. “We’ve been meeting with the Directorate of Labour and the labour unions in recent weeks,” he noted, explaining that the municipality had hoped for the best, even as it prepared for the worst.

The job loss figure does not only account for former employees of WOW air itself but also individuals who worked for companies that were in some way involved with the airline’s operations. “We anticipate that between six and seven hundred people will feel the effects of this crisis. This is a mix of WOW air employees and employees of all those companies that were involved in that airline’s operations: ramp service employees, [employees] at restaurants, bus companies, and travel agencies. […] We’ll have a more exact figure in the coming days.”

Reykjanesbær has grown considerably as a result of the travel industry, specifically in connection with airlines, WOW air among them, and the airport in Keflavík. “Twenty years ago, 10,000 people lived [in the municipality], now there are 19,000,” Friðjón noted in a separate interview with RÚV. Interestingly, perhaps, 24% of those residents are of foreign origin.

The municipality’s projections of the trickle-down effect of WOW air’s closure has basis in recent employment situations at and around the airport. Last November, for instance, the company Airport Associates, which provides air terminal service at the Keflavík International Airport, laid off 156 of its 237 employees due to operational difficulties at WOW air. Then, in late January, when WOW air came to an agreement with investors regarding adjusted terms on the bonds that were bought at the airline’s auction, those jobs were reinstated. But they will likely be in danger again now.

Friðjón urged other airlines, particularly Icelandair, to hire WOW air employees who lost their job when the company went under. He said that he hoped former WOW employees would be given priority instead of companies bringing in new employees from abroad. “We’ve had good communication with those companies and got constant updates about the situation. But there’s maybe nothing that would have prepared us for a blow like this, unfortunately.”