Niceair Cancels All UK Flights in June: “Brexit-Related Problems”

Airplane from Niceair

Niceair has cancelled all scheduled flights from Akureyri to the UK in June. The airline has experienced a few so-called “Brexit-related complications” as far as their Iceland-bound passengers are concerned, Vísir reports.

Brexit-related obstacles

Niceair embarked on its maiden flight from Iceland to the UK last week. The plane returned to Iceland empty, however, and travellers who had booked tickets back to Akureyri were forced to fly back with other airlines.

A press release from Niceair today announced that all scheduled flights from Akureyri to the UK in June had been cancelled, Vísir reports. Niceair operates aeroplanes from the Maltese charter airline HiFly, which British authorities maintain lacks the necessary permits to fly to and from the UK.

“They are, nevertheless, listed as certified flight operators by British authorities,” the press release reads. “Furthermore, the authorities stipulated that Niceair, an Icelandic company, secure a British travel-agency licence for the sale of travel packages (flights, hotels, rental cars), which lies beyond the operational purview of Niceair. Nowhere were these conditions mentioned during our three-month application process.”

“As far as we can gather,” the press release continues, “the problem, among other things, is that Iceland has a bilateral agreement with the UK on flight operations, and the UK has a similar agreement with the EU. These two agreements overlap in the UK. The problem arises once you begin transporting passengers from the UK to Iceland with a flight operator that has legal domicile in the EU (and not in Iceland or in the UK).” The press release also notes that it “appears likely” that the British authorities are worried about consumer protection; after Brexit, the UK authorities ceased automatic approval of European consumer legislation.

Unlikely that a solution will be found before the weekend

Despite Niceair working to resolve the matter, it is unlikely that a solution will be found before the weekend.

“We’ve worked non-stop to find a solution and have proposed numerous solutions to the British authorities,” the press release reads. “We’ve been aided by the Icelandic Transport Authority, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the British Embassy in Iceland – but no solution has been found. The weekend is fast approaching, and it sounds like a solution is unlikely before that time, owing to a lack of personnel and time.”

Travellers will be unable to book flights to the UK until a permanent solution is found. All passengers who had booked flights to the UK with the airline will be offered a refund. Niceair will also assist those looking to find alternative flights to or from the UK.

Mbl.is reported this afternoon that about 70 passengers who had flights booked to London with Niceair were waiting at the Akureyri airport. Their flight had been scheduled for yesterday evening but had been pushed back to noon today.

Erró: Remembrances of a Titan

Erró Icelandic visual artist

“Uuh!?”  Urinary associations Suspended on a wall in the Reykjavík Art Museum, there’s a cardboard plaque displaying, among other things, the exposed penis of one of Iceland’s best-known visual artists. A major figure of the narrative-figuration movement in the 1960s, Erró hosted a “happening” at the American Centre in Paris in 1963, in which he satirised US […]

This content is only visible under subscription. Subscribe here or log in.

Continue reading

I read that Reykjavík Zoo is expanding its seal enclosure; how many seals live there?

seal

Reykjavík Family Park and Zoo is currently home to four seals: Særún (female), Svavar, Garðar, and Kópur (male). Særún is the oldest, born in 1989, while Svavar and Garðar were born in 2017 and Kópur in 2019. The three younger seals are a bit more active than Særún and are known to jump when they’re excited about something, like an upcoming meal. Særún has slowed down with age but has learned to communicate well with her keepers: she bites at the air when she wants fish.

With a depth of 1.7 metres, the seals’ current pool is fairly shallow. Its volume is therefore also small, just over 100 metres cubed. The new pool, which will connect to the old one, will quadruple the total volume of the pool and will be more than four metres [13 feet] deep, allowing the seals more room for diving. Unlike the current seal facilities, the new enclosure will conform to the guidelines of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. The expansion is expected to be complete by November 2022.

Most of the animals at Reykjavík Family Park and Zoo are domestic animals such as sheep and goats. Keeping seals at the park has been controversial. In 2019, Marine biologist and Reykjavík Family Park and Zoo division head Þorkell Heiðarsson argued that pups born in the enclosure should be released into the wild. Icelandic law, however, does not allow seals to be released from captivity.

Record-Number of Icelanders Departed from Keflavík Airport in May

According to data from the Icelandic Tourist Board (Ferðamálastofa), 65,000 Icelanders departed from Keflavík Airport in May. The number of departures has not been higher since measurements began.

Previous record broken

As noted in a press release published on the website of the Icelandic Tourist Board this morning, 65,000 Icelanders flew abroad from Keflavík Airport in May. Never before have as many Icelanders departed from the country in May since measurements began. The previous record for departures among Icelanders from Keflavík was in May 2018, or nearly 63,000.

Approximately 450,000 travellers – of which 200,000 Icelanders – have departed from Keflavík Airport since the beginning of the new year. At the same time last year, only 32,000 departing passengers were recorded.

As far as the month of May is concerned, the departures of foreign passengers were also significant, with approximately 112,000 departures. This number has only been exceeded on four other occasions (the most in May of 2018). Nearly a fourth of departing passengers, or 26,000, were American. The second most populous group of travellers were British, or 9,500.

Double the overnight stays compared to last year

As noted by RÚV, the number of overnight stays in Icelandic hotels in May was approximately 255,000, twice as many compared to May last year (35% of beds were in use). Icelandic residents accounted for 54,000 overnight stays in May compared to 201,000 tourists.

The total number of overnight stays in Iceland in 2021 was just over 5 million. Never before had as many Icelanders accounted for such a large percentage of those overnight stays, or 40% (almost two million). In 2019, the number of overnight stays in Iceland was 8.5 million, a figure that plummeted during the pandemic. Statistics Iceland expects a busy summer as far as foreign tourists are concerned.

Police Announce Historic Drug Bust

Capital Area Police

The Capital Area Police held a press conference yesterday announcing a historic drug bust. The street value of the seizure amounts to ISK 2.4 billion ($18.5 million / €17.4 million).

ISK 1.7 billion worth of drugs seized

At 2 pm yesterday, the Capital Area Police Department held a press conference announcing a historic drug bust resulting from two extensive investigations. The street value of the drugs seized in the two busts amounts to an estimated ISK 2.4 billion ($18.5 million / €17.4 million). Ten individuals have been arrested in connection to each investigation.

According to Assistant Detective Chief Superintendent Margeir Sveinsson – who introduced the results of the former investigation – the Capital Area Police had been monitoring individuals suspected of the manufacture, distribution, and sale of illegal narcotics over the past few months. The individuals in question were also suspected of money laundering.

On May 20, a raid was carried out in 14 locations – commercial buildings, residential homes, and farmsteads. The police later searched six other places during their investigation, and ten individuals were arrested, one of whom remains in custody.

“We believe this is the biggest domestic seizure connected to a single investigation,” Margeir stated. The police seized 200 cannabis plants, over 30 kg of marijuana, 20 kg of hashish, and 7 kg of MDA. The police also seized MDA base, from which it is possible to manufacture over 200,000 ecstasy pills; 2 kg of cocaine; 1 kg of amphetamines; and over 40 litres of amphetamine base, which, based on its potency, could suffice to manufacture 170 kg of amphetamine for street sale. Finally, the police confiscated two kg of crystal methamphetamine, a “very potent drug,” according to Margeir.

Margeir estimated that the street value of these substances amounted to ISK 1.7 billion ($13.1 million / €12.3 million). He also observed that profits from sales were commonly laundered through legal businesses. The investigation is still ongoing.

700 million worth of amphetamine

After Margeir had concluded, Detective Chief Superintendent Grímur Grímsson discussed a separate investigation into organised crime that’s been ongoing for the past one and a half years. The investigation was initiated by information from Europol predicated on encrypted messages. In early 2020, imported substances were used to produce 117 kg of amphetamine, with a street value of 700 million ($5.4 million / €5.1 million). Ten individuals were arrested during the investigation, five were detained, three of whom remain in custody. According to mbl.is, all of the suspects in custody are Icelandic males.

Over 200 judicial claims

Hulda Elsa Björgvinsdóttir, Head of Indictments with the Capital Area Police Department, stated that legal proceedings based on the two investigations had been initiated in September, 2020. Many more legal complaints, or over 200, have since been filed.

The charges include organised crime in connection to the manufacture, importation, distribution, and sale of illegal narcotics, in addition to money laundering. According to Hulda, a great deal of time and effort was spent on the investigations and local authorities have been  in continuous contact with police authorities abroad.

Hulda also noted the extensiveness of the crimes, observing that it was worth considering their impact on the lives of affected individuals. She also questioned the effectiveness of laws stipulating that suspects may only be held in custody for twelve weeks unless charges are brought: “a brief time,” in relation to such extensive investigations, Hulda remarked.

Among the “greatest threat” to society

Chief of Police Halla Bergþóra Björnsdóttir also addressed media during the press conference. She remarked that the importation and manufacture of illegal narcotics was the single largest aspect of organised crime, which she deemed “one of the more serious threats” to modern Icelandic society.

Margeir added that the police had an estimated 10 ongoing investigations into organised crime in Iceland.