For media

11.10.2021 Press release:

Icelandair Embroiled in Labor Malpractice Scandal

Icelandair, the Icelandic airline widely known in the US and Europe for its stop-over flights across the Atlantic, is currently embroiled in a major scandal following the firing of a union representative in explicit violation of Icelandic labor law. The union representative, who worked in baggage handling at Reykjavík Airport, was engaged in dialogue with the company over workers’ rights when she was unexpectedly fired.

The union rep, Ólöf Helga Adolfsdóttir, was the only woman among permanent staff in baggage handling. She has worked there since 2016 and been a union rep since 2018. She enjoys the strong support and trust of her coworkers, who shortly after the firing signed a petition to Bogi Nils Bogason, the CEO of Icelandair, demanding that the firing be withdrawn. No response was offered by Bogi.

After four weeks of fruitless attempts by Ólöf and her union’s lawyer to have the firing withdrawn, Ólöf decided in consultation with her coworkers and union to speak out publicly. Ólöf’s union, Efling, has put up a web page with English-language materials and subtitled video interviews, profiling the case. Intense media coverage has followed, with over 20 headlines and editorials in all major Icelandic media outlets since October 5.

In 2020, concerns were raised about Icelandair’s relations to staff and unions, when the company fired all its cabin crew in the midst of collective bargaining with their union. Using layoffs as leverage in collective bargaining is explicitly forbidden by Icelandic labor law. In this case, however, Icelandair avoided labor court by issuing a public declaration jointly signed by other parties to the conflict, expressing regret over violations and an intent to improve union relations.

Barring withdrawal of Ólöf’s firing, Icelandair will be summoned to labor court by Efling Union over the case. If convicted, this will be a major blow to the company, which is already facing cash flow problems and a flight of top managers (see here, here, and here). The company’s local shareholders, the largest of which are local pension funds with strong ties to the union movement, will have to face the question of whether continued investment in Icelandair is compliant with ESG standards.

Bain Capital, Icelandair’s largest shareholder, also has ESG standards in which it expresses a commitment to “respect the rights of employees to decide whether or not to join a union and engage in collective bargaining.”

The labor unions of flight mechanics, cabin crew and pilots – all of whom are major negotiating partners with Icelandair – have issued statements expressing solidarity and concern over Ólöf’s firing, imploring Icelandair to withdraw it. Further solidarity statements and union-organized actions are forthcoming in the next weeks and days.

Ólöf Helga Adolfsdóttir is available for comment, as is Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, chairwoman of Efling Union.

Here is a memo in English covering relevant facts of the case, and additional materials are found on the Efling web page dedicated to it, here:

For further information or assistance with media coverage, contact Vidar Thorsteinsson, Director of Membership Affairs at Efling Union, via phone (+354 695 4280) or email (