Air Greenland cancels flights as dispute with crews flares

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Air Greenland has cancelled all flights until at least Wednesday after going ahead with a threatened lock-out of its pilots and cabin crew in a dispute over pay and working hours.

The airline has also suspended all ticket sales for travel until 29 January in the dispute, which spokesman Jesper Egede says is costing the carrier 1 million Danish kroner ($175,000) a day.

Hopes on averting the dispute were pinned on last-minute talks through Denmark's Conciliation Board, which intervenes to try to find common ground between opposing sides in industrial conflicts. Greenland is a self-governing Danish dependancy.

However, according to Egede, the conciliator said on 8 January that he was unable to bridge the gap between the two sides. Air Greenland locked out its 106 pilots and 55 cabin crew yesterday. No further talks are currently planned.

The national carrier operates a single Airbus A330-200 on two routes from Narsarsuaq and Kangerlussuaq to Copenhagen, as well as Bombardier Dash 7 and Dash 8 turboprops, De Havilland DHC-6-300 Twin Otters plus a large helicopter fleet to connect some 60 communities within Greenland.

While the dispute continues, the airline and pilots have agreed that a single back-up aircraft will be available to carry out medical emergency flights within Greenland.

In a statement, Air Greenland managing director Michael Binzer says he deeply regrets the situation. "I am fully aware of the serious consequences that the conflict will have on our customers, our employees and society at large, but unfortunately it has not been possible to find a solution."

He adds that it is essential that Air Greenland's staff are more productive to improve the airline's competitiveness. He says the airline has offered higher wages and indexing, plus offered to meet other demands from aircrew. In return, the airline wants the average number of work days for pilots to rise from 192 to 198 days a year.