Wage Agreements Signed; Keflavík Airport Strikes Averted

Keflavík Airport

Strikes at Keflavík International Airport have been averted following the signing of agreements between the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise on behalf of ISAVIA, and the labour committees of the Union of Aviation Workers and Sameyki. The agreements, resulting from prolonged negotiations, will now be presented to union members for a vote, concluding by late May.

Strike action called off

Yesterday, agreements were signed between the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) on behalf of ISAVIA and the labour negotiation committees of the Union of Aviation Workers (FFR) and Sameyki, a nationwide union of public servants. The strikes that had previously been announced at the Keflavík International Airport have been called off.

As noted in an article published in IR last weekend, negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement had been ongoing since last September, with the labour dispute being handed over to the Office of the State Mediator on April 8.

As reported by Vísir, State Mediator Ástráður Haraldsson expressed satisfaction with the parties reaching an agreement. He noted that people are generally not overly joyous after wage negotiations – but he hoped that everyone was “reasonably dissatisfied.”

The agreements will be presented to the members of Sameyki and FFR, who will subsequently vote on them.

A desired balance struck between negotiating parties

In an interview with Vísir, Þórarinn Eyfjörð, Chairperson of Sameyki, stated that the negotiating parties had achieved the desired balance between their interests. Þórarinn added that the unions were quite pleased with the outcome, although “one is never completely satisfied when signing wage agreements.”

Þórarinn characterised yesterday’s negotiations as “a tough working day” with many positive developments, although one never fully achieves all their goals.

As noted by Vísir, the union members’ vote on the agreement will conclude around May 20. Þórarinn expressed confidence in taking the agreement to the members, noting that an information campaign will now begin, followed by a voting process just before May 20 expected to end between May 23 and 24.

Þórarinn remains optimistic about the agreement’s approval, though he acknowledged that nothing could be guaranteed.

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Near Miss with Bus on Wrong Side of Road Captured on Dashcam

A bus driving on the wrong side of the road on Reykjanesbrautin.

Drivers on Reykjanesbrautin yesterday narrowly avoided a collision when they encountered a bus driving towards them on the wrong side of the road. The bus was under the care of a repair shop, whose owner attributed the incident to “human error.”

Narrowly avoided a collision

A driver and his passenger were considerably startled yesterday as they drove along Reykjanesbraut – the road leading from the capital area to the Keflavík International Airport – and encountered a bus coming towards them at full speed on the wrong side of the road. As can be seen in the accompanying video from Mbl.is below, cars had to quickly swerve to the side to allow the bus to pass.

 

“We had the camera on the dashboard running, as always, and suddenly we saw the cars ahead of us dart to the side and then this bus coming towards us on the opposite side of the barrier,” driver Haraldur Ingþórsson told Mbl.is yesterday.

As reported by Vísir today, the bus in question was under the care of the vehicle repair shop Vélrás. The company owner told Vísir that it had been a matter of “human error” and that the matter would be dealt with internally.

The bus company Arctic Oro was initially implicated in the incident after netizens traced the bus’s licence plate to the company. The owner of the bus company told Vísir that the company had suffered significant reputational damage due to the incident; the truth was that the bus was being repaired at the aforementioned workshop, and an employee of the workshop had been driving the bus.

No Decision on Strikes in Latest Air Traffic Controllers’ Talks

Keflavík Airport

Negotiations between air traffic controllers and Isavia failed to produce an agreement earlier today, RÚV reports. The parties will reconvene at the State Mediator’s office on Friday, with no further strike actions currently planned by air traffic controllers.

Negotiations progressed slowly

A negotiation meeting that took place earlier today between air traffic controllers and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise, representing Isavia (the company that operates all public airports in Iceland), did not yield results.

The disputing parties have decided to meet again at the office of the State Mediator on Friday. Arnar Hjálmsson, Chairman of the Air Traffic Controllers Association, told RÚV today that no decisions had been made among air traffic controllers regarding further strike action. 

As previously reported on IR, air traffic controllers previously ceased work for four hours in strike actions over three days before Christmas but postponed the fourth due to the volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The collective agreement of air traffic controllers expired on October 1 and negotiations have progressed very slowly.

Icelandair Resumes Service Between Keflavík and Akureyri in Trial

icelandair akureyri keflavík

Icelandair has resumed service between Akureyri and Keflavík International Airport.

The connection was last offered in 2019, and since then, Akureyri residents travelling internationally have needed to first fly to the Reykjavík airport, and then travel to Keflavík International Airport.

Limited time offer

According to an Icelandair press release, the first passengers on Icelandair’s international connection from Akureyri to Keflavik Airport were treated to a light coffee service at Akureyri Airport this morning. The international connection will be available from October 15 to November 30, 2023. During this period, flights will operate three times a week from Akureyri to Keflavik, departing at 5:50 AM on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and three times a week from Keflavik to Akureyri on Wednesdays at 9:20 PM, and Fridays and Sundays at 5:15 PM.

The decision was made to schedule the flight early, as accommodation options in North Iceland are limited during the summer. Icelandair has previously stated that it hopes to strengthen and develop the international connection from Akureyri.

The route is currently scheduled as a trial, though service may be expanded in the future if the connection proves popular.

As this flight is an international connection, security screening will be conducted at Akureyri Airport, and it can only be booked in conjunction with an Icelandair international flight.

Looking ahead

Tómas Ingason, Director of Revenue, Service, and Marketing at Icelandair stated to the press:  “The international connection from Akureyri has received a very positive reception right from the start, as it significantly shortens travel time for Northerners to Icelandair’s European destinations. With this connection, we also aim to promote better distribution of travellers around the country and stimulate increased demand for trips to Akureyri, especially during the winter. It’s exciting to announce that those who took the first flight from Akureyri this morning are on their way to various destinations across Europe, including Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, Tenerife, Dublin, London, Copenhagen, and Helsinki.”

 

 

Record Number of Travellers Denied Entry at Keflavík Airport

Keflavík Airport

Keflavík Airport has registered a record 258 denials of entry this year, mostly in association with suspected criminal activity. The Suðurnes police have also been active in investigating smuggling and money laundering cases and have made significant seizures.

258 travellers denied entry in 2023

Keflavík Airport has seen a record number of passengers denied entry, with 258 denial cases recorded so far this year. Most denials are linked to individuals’ connections to criminal activities, Mbl.is reports.

Last year, the Suðurnes police investigated 69 cases related to drug smuggling, money laundering, and illegal export of cash. This year, 58 such cases have been reported. In many of these cases, as reported by Mbl.is, suspects were arrested at Keflavík Airport either upon arrival or due to suspicions of carrying illicit funds when departing.

Significant seizures at the border

Authorities have seized 65 kg of cocaine, 14,000 tablets of oxycontin, 1,800 tablets of contalgin, 100 kg of cannabis, amphetamine base, and other banned substances. Additionally, ISK 60 million [$432,000/€410,000] in cash has been confiscated.

In 2022, 80 individuals were held in custody by the Suðurnes police for a total of 2,903 days, averaging 8 individuals daily. This year has seen 96 individuals detained for 2,617 days, with an average of about 10 individuals being held in custody every day.

Stress the importance of vigorous border operations

A press release from the police, and reported on by Mbl.is, underscores the importance of strong police and customs operations at Keflavík Airport. This includes well-trained staff, essential equipment, and appropriate working conditions. The collaboration between European countries on police cooperation and border control, based on the Schengen Agreement, is particularly extensive and demanding for Iceland, given its distance from mainland Europe.

137,000 Foreign Passengers Departed Iceland in February

Keflavík Airport

Approximately 137,000 foreign passengers departed from Iceland via Keflavík Airport in February. This is nearly as many foreign passengers who left the country in 2018 when departures were at their peak.

British and American travellers most numerous

According to a press release from the Icelandic Tourist Board, approximately 137,000 foreign passengers departed from Keflavík Airport in February. This number is roughly equivalent to the departures in February 2020 and represents 86% of the peak departures recorded in February 2018. Of the departures, British and American travellers accounted for more than two out of every five (39,000 Icelanders departed from Keflavík in February).

In February, British travellers left Keflavík Airport in the greatest number, or around 39,000 (28.7% of the total). The British were followed by American travellers at nearly 21,000 (15.1% of the total). These two nationalities have consistently been the most frequent departures in February for the past two decades, according to the Icelandic Tourist Board.

Departing German nationals composed the third most numerous departures in February (6.8% of the total), and French travellers were the fourth most numerous (6.7%). These nationalities were followed by the Poles (4.0%), the Irish (3.7%), the Italians (3.4%), the Chinese (2.9%), the Danes (2.7%), and the Spanish (2.2%).

Since the beginning of the year, about 258,000 foreign passengers have left Iceland, while at the same time last year, their departures were about 143,000. In total, departures in January and February this year were about 84% of the departures recorded in the same months in 2018 and 90% of those recorded in 2019.

Power Outage Leaves Keflavík International on Backup Power

Keflavík airport

A power outage left all of Suðurnes, the part of the Reykjanes peninsula outside the capital area, without power for some time yesterday. As of the time of writing, power has been restored in all areas.

The outage began around 3:00 PM yesterday and power was largely restored by 6:00 PM.

For some time during the outage, Keflavík International Airport needed to run on backup power.

In a statement to Morgunblaðið, Isavia information officer Guðjón Helgason said that all backup power generators were in operation, and that the operations were not affected. There were no disruptions to the electrical system, but no hot water was available for some time. Guðjón further stated that Keflavík was capable of running on backup power for significant periods of time.

Thankfully, the most serious disruption were to handball viewership. After Suðurnes residents expressed their fears that they may miss the South Korea – Iceland match, the local Search and Rescue team “Þorbjörn” stepped in.

Grindavík residents were invited to watch the match at the local Search and Rescue station, which has its own backup power generator. Bogi Adolfsson, chairperson of Þorbjörn, stated to Morgunblaðið that about 30 people were in attendance and that it was a “great atmosphere.” Iceland beat South Korea 38 – 25 in the Kristianstad match, Iceland’s last match in the D Group.

The power outage was caused by a disruption in a substation in Fitjar, a district in Reykjanesbær.

Keflavík Flights Impacted by Winter Weather

Keflavík Airport

The winter weather that hit the Capital Region over the weekend is causing delays and cancellations to flights out of Keflavík International Airport.

Eight flights were canceled to the country last night, including all flights from the US. 

Additional delays to flight from and to Europe are expected today as well.

The Meteorological Office has issued a yellow weather warning for much of the country, and an orange weather warning for Southeast Iceland.

Stay up to date with the Meteorological Office’s weather warnings here.

Travelers are advised to contact their airline for further information, in addition to checking flight times at the airport’s website.

Incident Involving Refugee and Son Ejected from Bus Sparks Outrage

public bus Reykjavík

An account of a refugee and his son being prevented from boarding a Strætó bus from Reykjavík to Keflavík on Friday evening has invoked a public outcry and garnered a great deal of attention, both on social media and from community leaders, Vísir reports. Nichole Leigh Mosty, director of the Multicultural Information Centre, says the story isn’t surprising, and that cultural sensitivity training is important for people in service jobs who deal with diverse populations.

Refused to let another passenger pay fare

According to a public Facebook post published by Joana Diminiczak, a man and his young son boarded a Strætó 55 bus at the University of Iceland stop at 6:31 PM on Friday. The man attempted to use the payment card provided for him by the municipality of Reykjanesbær, but the card didn’t work. The driver told him he had to pay his fare out of pocket and began to berate him in front of the other passengers. The man called someone and handed the phone to the driver, who said that “‘these refugees’ never want to pay,” wrote Joana in her post, “they bring useless cards and he’s not a charity, he does his job, and wants to finally go home and have his dinner.” Joana continued, saying that the driver then turned to the man and said in English, “I live in Njarðvík [one of the towns that comprises Reykjanesbær]. I’ll find you.”

At this point, Joana said she attempted to intercede and pay the fare for the man and child, but the bus driver refused, saying he had called the police. “I ask him to call the police [back] and say the matter is resolved because I will pay for them, but he didn’t want to do it. When I say that I can call so he doesn’t have to, he still doesn’t want to let me pay!!! The man gives up, takes his son, and they get out. He looks up at the sky, near tears, but still with hope in his eyes of sparing the boy the humiliation, and says, ‘He watches us.’ We pull out and the bus driver proudly calls the police and says that he is no longer in need of assistance.”

Joana then concluded her post, writing, “Such drivers shouldn’t be driving buses. I hope that Strætó takes this matter seriously.” At time of writing, the post had received 202 largely sympathetic and outraged comments, many of which called on Strætó to address the situation. It had been also been shared around 1,400 times.

‘They need training in how to deal with this diverse group of customers’

When contacted for comment, Nichole Leigh Mosty, director of the Multicultural Information Centre, said the story did not surprise her. “I wasn’t surprised, because I know there have been difficulties implementing the Klappið app [Strætó’s payment app]. It isn’t designed for diverse members of society, for foreigners or senior citizens. And we’ve seen this behaviour from employees over and over. It’s a stressful job, but the fact that they are serving a diverse community means that they need training in how to deal with this diverse group of customers. But don’t make such prejudicial statements and [provide] poor service.”

Nichole says that cultural sensitivity training is vital. “Whenever we have people in a service position, cultural sensitivity is needed considering that there are all sorts of people who use public transportation. And those who are serving them need to be able to treat everyone who uses that service with respect.”

‘It’s very clear that we’ll be looking into what went on there’

Strætó’s director Jóhannes Svavar Rúnarsson told reporters that he wasn’t familiar with the situation himself, but that the case has been referred to the Icelandic Road Administration, which services bus lines that run outside of the capital area. However, at time of writing, Bergþóra Kristinsdóttir, manager of the Road Administration’s service department, said that she was not familiar with the situation either.

“It’s not a nice story. It’s not come across our desk, I’ve not received any other information about this incident. But it’s very clear that we’ll be looking into what went on there,” said Bergþóra.

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.