Air Traffic Controllers to Strike

The Icelandic Air Traffic Controller Association (FÍF) has called for a strike after talks around an ongoing dispute over working hours failed to reach an agreement. The work stoppage will take place next week, on Tuesday, August 31. Vísir was first to report.

The action comes in the wake of a stalled meeting between FÍF and Isavia, which handles the operation of Keflavik International Airport and manages air traffic in the Icelandic control area. Representatives for both parties took part in a marathon meeting on Monday from 1:00 – 11:30 pm. Unfortunately, no agreement was reached.

FÍF chairman Arnar Hjálmsson confirmed that the work stoppage will be short and temporary. It will apply for all union members who work for Isavia. Arnar expressed disappointment at having to resort to a strike action but said there was no other option. The overwhelming majority of FÍF members support striking, he said, and the union must accede to their wishes.

Earlier this month, on August 9, FÍF members approved six independent work stoppages as part of their contract dispute. Five of these have been postponed; the window to avoid the final work stoppage closes at 5:00 am on Tuesday morning.

Arnar told reporters that it is now in the hands of the state mediator to call another meeting between the union and Isavia. No further meetings have yet been scheduled.

Akureyri and Egilsstaðir Airports to be Expanded

Akureyri in winter

The expansion of Akureyri and Egilsstaðir airports in North Iceland and East Iceland respectively will be part of the government’s public investment measures intended to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the ISK 20 billion ($142m/€132m) set aside for infrastructure, ISK 6 billion ($43 million/€39.1 million) will be invested in transportation infrastructure.

The construction at both airports is scheduled to start this year, according to a notice from the government of Iceland. At the Akureyri Airport, the terminal will be expanded, as will the tarmac, adding longevity to the airport and supporting tourism in the region. The construction at Egilsstaðir airport will increase operational security and safety at the site, as well as creating space to accommodate up to 20 large jets in the case of closures at Keflavík International Airport.

Minister of Transport Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson stated that construction of roads, airports, and ports was an important step toward preparing the country for tourism once the COVID-19 epidemic has passed. “Despite the collapse of the tourism industry, there is an urgent need to build up infrastructure and airports are one of the key components of the investment initiative.”

The construction at both airports is intended to facilitate international flights as well. As Sigurður Ingi added in a Facebook post about the initiative: “In the long run, the country’s competitiveness will depend greatly on international flight connections and more gateways into the country have been on the government’s agenda.”

Local government in Akureyri has long been lobbying for expansion to the airport in order to make it more viable for international flights. Akureyri Mayor Ásthildur Sturludóttir celebrated the announcement. “We are extremely pleased that the Transport Minister and the government as a whole have looked at and listened to our wishes.”