Airport Strikes to Begin in May

Keflavík Airport

The union of aviation workers and Sameyki, a nationwide union of public servants, have agreed to strike action at Keflavík airport starting 9 May, Vísir reports.

Negotiation standstill

Around 80% of the aviation workers union approved the action. Negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement have been ongoing since September 2023 and the labour dispute was handed over to the State Conciliation and Mediation Officer on 8 April.

On 28 April, aviation workers felt that negotiations with SA Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise on behalf of Isavia, the national airport and air navigation service provider of Iceland, had come to a standstill.

Departures halted

The strike action will begin at 4 PM on 9 May with a ban on overtime and training. Airport security workers will strike from 4 to 8 AM on Friday 10 May, Thursday 16 May, Friday 17 May and Monday 20 May.

Unnar Örn Ólafsson, head of the aviation workers union has said that these four hour work stoppages should halt departures and that they were chosen because of how they impact the airlines. “Passengers will not be able to enter if the security check is closed,” he said. “It will also take longer to load passengers into the airplanes.”

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Air Traffic Controllers Continue Strike Actions

Keflavík airport Icelandair

The air traffic controllers of Iceland were on strike today for the third time since last week. Their next strike is scheduled for Wednesday morning. Air traffic controllers’ collective agreement negotiations with the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) are at a deadlock. Icelandair’s CEO says continued strikes would increase the likelihood of flight cancellations over the holidays. Iceland’s Parliament may be preparing to step in with legislation to break the strike, according to mbl.is.

Parliament may legislate to break strike

According to mbl.is, the Infrastructure Ministry is preparing a bill to break the strikes, if negotiations remain at a standstill. Minister of Infrastructure Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson did not wish to confirm this, however, when contacted by the outlet. Sigurður Ingi did refer to the responsibility held by the negotiating parties “right before Christmas, following a natural disaster that has cost this society a considerable amount.”

Two unions, the State Flight Staff Association (Félag flugmálastarfsmanna ríkisins) and the Dock Workers Association (Félag hafnarverkamanna), have issued statements in support of Iceland’s air traffic controllers and their right to strike. They underline the right to strike as necessary toward maintaining a just balance of power between workers and employers.

No negotiation meetings scheduled

The collective agreement of air traffic controllers expired on October 1 and negotiations with the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) have gone very slowly. This is the third air traffic controller strike in Iceland in five years. Arnar Hjálmsson, president of the Air Traffic Controller Association asserts that the salaries of Iceland’s 152 air traffic controllers have lagged compared to other professions in the industry in recent years.

The next strike is scheduled for 4:00 AM-10:00 AM on Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, no meetings are on the calendar between the negotiating parties.

 

Air Traffic Controllers to Strike Thursday Amid Failed Talks

A negotiation meeting between Icelandic air traffic controllers and Isavia was called off at 5 PM yesterday without an agreement, Vísir reports. Air traffic controllers will undertake additional strike action on Thursday morning. 

Next meeting on Thursday at 2 PM

A negotiation meeting between the Icelandic Air Traffic Controllers Association and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise, representing Isavia (the company that operates all public airports in Iceland), began at 3 PM yesterday. The meeting, which took place at the offices of the State Mediator, concluded two hours later without an agreement being reached, Vísir reports.

The next meeting in the wage dispute is scheduled for Thursday at 2 PM. This means that additional strike action scheduled for the morning of Thursday, December 4, will be implemented.

As reported yesterday, the travel plans of thousands of passengers were disrupted when the first wave of strike actions hit yesterday morning. In addition to the planned strikes on Thursday, similar actions have been announced for Monday and Wednesday of next week.

Commercial airlines Icelandair and Play are now assessing their legal position regarding the issue, stating that the actions of the air traffic controllers have caused significant damage to the companies.

Agreements expired October 1

As noted in an article on IR yesterday, the collective agreement of air traffic controllers expired on October 1 and negotiations have progressed very slowly. This is the third air traffic controller strike in Iceland in five years. Arnar Hjálmsson, president of the Air Traffic Controller Association, has asserted that the salaries of Iceland’s 152 air traffic controllers have lagged compared to other professions in the industry in recent years. The strike makes exceptions for emergency and Coast Guard flights.

Flights Delayed as Iceland’s Air Traffic Controllers Strike

Keflavík Airport

Dozens of flights to and from Keflavík and Reykjavík airports have been delayed this morning due to industrial action by the Icelandic Air Traffic Controller Association. The strike ends at 10:00 AM, but will have ripple effects on flights throughout the day as airlines scramble to get passengers to their destinations. Many are expected to miss their connecting flights.

The airline Play has announced the disruption of 19 flights, five of them from North America and fourteen from Iceland to destinations in Europe. The arrivals of North American flights and the departures of European flights have been delayed until the work stoppage ends at 10:00 AM. Icelandair has delayed 12 flights from North America this morning along with most of European flights. In addition, a number of flights have been combined and destinations altered. A flight scheduled for London Gatwick will land at London Heathrow and a flight to Paris will end up in Amsterdam. Planned flights to Zürich and Munich will head to Frankfurt, while a scheduled flight to Stockholm is now destined for Copenhagen.

More work stoppages announced

A second round of work stoppages is expected Thursday morning if a resolution to the labour dispute is not reached before then, with further action taking place next week, according to Mbl.is reporting on the labour dispute. A round of negotiations between air traffic controllers and Isavia, the company that operates all public airports in Iceland, ended last night without an agreement. Al­dís Magnús­dótt­ir, the state mediator in the dispute, says discussions will resume later today. However, the parties are not close to an agreement, according to both Aldís and Arnar Hjálmsson, president of the Air Traffic Controller Association. If the dispute is not resolved, further industrial action will take place on December 14, 18 and 20.

Repeated air traffic controller strikes

The collective agreement of air traffic controllers expired on October 1 and negotiations have gone very slowly. This is the third air traffic controller strike in Iceland in five years. Arnar asserts that the salaries of Iceland’s 152 air traffic controllers have lagged compared to other professions in the industry in recent years. The strike makes exceptions for emergency and coast guard flights.

 

Obstructing Media Coverage of Deportation Was “Misunderstanding”

Jón Gunnarsson Minister of Justice

Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson says that the most likely explanation for Keflavík Airport staff obstructing journalists during a deportation last November was that they “misunderstood” the request made by the Police Commissioner’s Support Department. Isavia employees turned floodlight against a crowd of reporters, preventing them from filming or photographing the deportation of 15 people last November. The deportation sparked criticism and protests in Iceland and was later ruled illegal.

The Minister’s statement was part of an answer to Pirate Party MP Andrés Ingi Jónsson’s question: “By whom and on what grounds and basis, including legal sources, was a decision made to direct floodlights at media personnel that obstructed their work on the night of November 3, 2022 at Keflavík Airport?” The National Police Commissioner and Isavia issued a joint statement following the incident which said that the two parties regretted that police recommendations were not clear enough. The statement also underlined that police control the implementation of such events.

In his response to Andrés Ingi, the Minister of Justice stated that a review of the incidents implementation, there was no indication that police had specifically directed Isavia employees to obstruct the work of the media in any way. “[T]he most likely explanation for the incident is that there was a misunderstanding regarding the request of the support department to be able to operate without disturbance in the restricted area of the airport, in such a way that the request also included instructions that the movement of the media should be restricted.”

The Minister of Justice stated that work procedure has been review to prevent incidents like this from happening again.

Flights Cancelled, Passengers Unable to Disembark Due to High Winds

Gale-force winds and heavy snowshowers caused considerable disruptions for travellers on Sunday, Mbl.is and RÚV report. While most international flights were cancelled or delayed before they departed, however, eight flights from North America were already en route to Keflavík when the weather took a turn for the worst. The unfortunate passengers on seven of these flights were stuck in their planes for six or more hours, as it was too windy to use jet bridges for disembarkation.

On Sunday, the Met Office issued an orange warning for the west and southwest of Iceland, which experienced winds of 18-28 m/s [40-62 mph]; a yellow warning was issued for the rest of the country, where winds gusted at an ever-so-slightly calmer 18-25 m/s [40-55 mph].

Search and Rescue teams used a bus and another large vehicle to shelter an external stairway from the wind. Image via Lögreglan á Suðurnesjum, FB

Eight hundred passengers stranded in planes on runway

Eight airplanes transporting close to 800 passengers from North America landed at Keflavík on Sunday morning around 6:00 am. One of these planes, arriving from Newark, New Jersey, was able to disembark without issue. The other seven were not so lucky. The wind picked up and became too strong to allow for the use of jet bridges. Search and Rescue teams were called in to assist with the disembarking process.

As of 1:00 pm, only one plane’s passengers had been able to exit their aircraft. Search and Rescue teams managed to successfully evacuate the flight, which had flown in from Miami, Florida, by rolling an external stairway up to the pane, sheltering it from the wind with large vehicles, and rigging up a rope system to help passengers keep their balance as they went out into the frosty gusts.

At time of writing, Search and Rescue teams were still working diligently to evacuate the remaining airplanes, and do so as safely as possible.

Reykjanesbraut Reopened, Delay in Keflavík Flights

Weather alerts

This article was updated at 1.30 PM.

Reykjanesbraut has been reopened and a number of delayed flights are expected to depart from Keflavík Airport starting at 3 PM. A yellow weather alert is in effect in the capital area and Reykjanes peninsula.

Travellers upset by delays, lack of information

A number of flights from Keflavík Airport were cancelled or delayed yesterday due to poor weather conditions, leaving hundreds of travellers stranded. Many of them complained about the lack of information and support provided by Isavia (the national airport and air navigation service provider of Iceland) and Icelandair, while also expressing dissatisfaction with low temperatures and the selection of food available at the airport.

Yellow weather alerts are still in effect but as of 1 PM this afternoon, Reykjanesbraut (the road leading from the capital area to the airport) has been reopened. The road was briefly opened to the east last evening but closed again last night.

A number of early-morning flights to Europe were cancelled and Icelandair has delayed daytime flights to Tenerife, Las Palmas, and Boston (estimated departures at 3 PM or later, at the time of writing).

Travellers can monitor the situation on the Icelandic Road Administration’s Twitter page, umferdin.is, and, of course, the departures and arrivals section of Keflavík Airport’s website.

Hell’s Angels Expelled from Iceland

Twenty-two members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang were deported from Iceland on Saturday morning. The Hell’s Angels are one of several motorcycle gangs that are gaining ground in Iceland and the expelled members have suspected ties to organized crime. Vísir reported first.

The individuals had apparently come to Iceland to attend a gathering in the capital area. Icelandic police have protocols in place to address the arrival of “people connected to motorcycle clubs” and were ready and waiting when 15 members of the Hell’s Angels landed at the airport from Germany. These individuals were detained and questioned while authorities determined whether they would be allowed to enter the country. No arrests were made at the airport, although seven of their fellow club members were stopped and arrested by police on the road to/from the airport on the same day. Those individuals had flown to Iceland from Sweden.

RÚV reports that the cases of five other Hell’s Angels members who arrived from Denmark are still under review, but it is assumed that they came to Iceland to attend the same gathering.

This is not the first time this year that members of international motorcycle clubs have been expelled from Iceland upon arrival. In February, a high-ranking member of the Bandidos motorcycle club in Sweden was deported; three members of the Finnish Bandidos club were deported in October 2021. Bandidos MC is another motorcycle with international chapters that is believed to have established a foothold in Iceland.

US Citizens Account for a Third of All Airport Departures in September

Travellers Keflavik airport

One hundred seventy-seven thousand people departed from Keflavík international airport in September, new data from the Icelandic Tourist Board shows. This makes last month the fourth busiest September the airport has seen since the Tourist Board started keeping such records. Last month, departures at Leif Eiríksson International Airport were 76% of what they were at their peak in 2018.

US citizens accounted for a third of all departures

Most of September’s recorded departures can be attributed to ten nations, with Americans making up the largest proportion of travellers, or 30.1%. All told, 53,315 Americans departed from Keflavík last month. Americans have made up Iceland’s largest block of foreign visitors since 2013 and this year’s numbers are similar to those recorded in 2017.

Germany came in a distant second, with 15,965 departures (9%) in September, followed by 10,791 travellers (6%) from the UK, 8,538 travellers from Spain, and 8,345 from France (roughly 4.7% each). The top ten was then rounded out by Poland (7,639 departures; 4.3%), The Netherlands (7,267; 4.1%), Canada (7,003; 3.9%), Italy (5,887; 3.3%), and Denmark (5,439; 3%).

Over a million foreign tourists since the start of the year

As an increasing number of people return to international travel post-COVID, tourism in Iceland is clearly on the rebound. Since the start of the year, 1.3 million foreign travellers have departed from Iceland, compared to 445,000 departures between January and September of last year. Even so, this year’s numbers are about 277,000 departures short of what they were in 2019.

Icelanders travelling in record numbers

Roughly 60,000 Icelanders travelled abroad in September, making it locals’ most-travelled September ever. Since January, 441,000 Icelanders have departed from Keflavík, which is 95% of the total number of Icelanders who flew abroad during the same time period in 2017, 87% of the total who flew abroad between January and September 2018, and 94% of the same count in 2019.

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.