Play Airlines to Open New Connection to Porto

iceland budget airline play

In a press release today, budget airliner Play announced that it will be opening a new connection to Porto, Portugal in April 2023.

The connection will now be the airliner’s second connection to Portgual, already operating a route between Keflavík and Lisbon twice a week.

The new route to Porto is scheduled to fly twice a week.

Play CEO Birgir Jónsson said in a statement: “We want to be the leading airline between Iceland and the Iberian Peninsula, and are working toward that goal by adding Porto as a destination in 2023. We will continue our Lisbon services next year, Lisbon being one of PLAY´s most popular destinations in 2022. In addition to the two cities in Portugal, we will continue operating our seven destinations in Spain, four of which will be year-round destinations. With our services, Icelanders have more options to get to sunny Spain for less, and we feel the people of Spain really love Iceland, and have clearly grabbed the opportunity to fly direct to our beautiful country with PLAY.”

A popular tourist destination, this will be the first direct flight to the city from Iceland.


Hopes for New ASÍ Leadership Amidst Contract Negotiations

trade union iceland así

With many labour contracts expiring at the end of October, pressure is mounting on the current round of negotiations.

Kristján Þórður Snæbjarnarson, acting chairman of ASÍ after Drífa Snædal’s resignation earlier this year, has stated that a major issue at ASÍ’s upcoming conference will of course be wage increases, but that choosing new leadership will play an equally important role.

Read more: Drífa Snædal, President of the Icelandic Confederation of Labour, Steps Down

Drífa’s departure earlier this year caused some turmoil within ASÍ leadership, which Kristján states has unfortunately turned the energies of the association towards inward power struggles, not outward to the wage negotiations.

So far, VR president Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson is the only one to announce their candidacy for ASÍ president, but there still remains the opportunity for individuals to announce their candidacy at the conference.

Another debated issue in the current negotiations is the role of the state mediator. Kristján is on record calling for a simplified process by which unions can call for strikes, giving them relatively more power at the bargaining table. Notably, many other trade unions in the Nordic nations also allow for leadership to call unilaterally for a strike, circumventing the need for union-wide votes. Kristján has called for such reforms to the strike process in lieu of strengthening the role of the state mediator.

The wage negotiations take place against the backdrop of an ever-rising cost of living in Iceland. Main contributing factors include inflation and rising interest rates that have seen mortgage payments increase significantly this year.

Yesterday, the Central Bank announced a .25% increase to the interest rate. Ásgeir Jónsson, governor of the Central Bank, warned that the course of inflation in Iceland was largely up to the labour market. The rate increase could be interpreted as an attempt to dissuade negotiators from too-ambitious of wage increases, as they may drive inflation further.


Policy Aims to Promote Transparency in Iceland’s Fishing Industry

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir

A new government initiative spearheaded by Svandís Svavarsdóttir, head of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, aims to bring comprehensive policy reforms and transparency to the fishing industry.

The initiative, entitled Auðlindin Okkar (Our Resource), arose out of several working groups that were commissioned earlier in the year in line with the Agreement on the Platform for the Coalition Government between the Independence Party, the Left Green Movement, and the Progressive Party. In the coalition charter, it states the following regarding fisheries:

“A committee will be appointed to map the challenges and opportunities in fisheries and related sectors and to assess the macroeconomic benefits of the fisheries management system. The committee will be tasked with comparing the situation in Iceland and abroad and submitting proposals to maximise Icelanders’ potential for further success and societal consensus on the framework of the sector. The committee will also discuss how transparency in fisheries companies’ operations can be increased, especially among the country’s largest companies. In addition, the committee will evaluate the success of employment and regional quotas and summer inshore handline fishing in supporting the rural economy.”

In the estimation of these working groups, the time has come for a new approach.

Read more: Working Groups to Overhaul Iceland’s Fisheries Legislation

Earlier this year, Svandís stated that “there is a deep feeling of injustice among the public […] I think that feeling stems mainly from two things; the consolidation of quota and the feeling that the profits from the shared resource of the people are not divided fairly. The aim of this work is therefore efficient and sustainable utilisation of marine resources in harmony with the environment and society.”

Now, Our Resource aims to shine daylight on a very powerful sector of the Icelandic economy that some say borders on oligarchy. There are, for instance, just four companies that collectively own 60% of all Iceland’s fishing quota: Samherji, Brim, KS, and Ísfélagið.

A central aim of the initiative will be a thorough mapping of the management and ownership of Iceland’s major fishing concerns. Many details of the property relations in these concerns remain in the dark, and Our Resource hopes to be able to better supervise the industry. According to the government website, “[t]he inspection is primarily intended to increase transparency and improve administration in the field of monitoring management and ownership relationships in the maritime industry. The examination includes the collection of information and the mapping of the property relationships of fishing companies that have been allocated a certain amount of fishing permits and the influence of fishing company owners through the exercise of voting rights and board seats in companies.”

This initial mapping report on the industry is to be published by December 31, 2022.