New Law on Taxis Takes Effect

Taxi in Iceland's capital, Reykjavík

The much-protested law on taxis came into effect this April 1, leaving many taxi drivers uneasy about their future as a new company enters the market.

Among other reforms, the law loosens requirements for operating a taxi and removes restrictions on the number of taxi permits. According to lawmakers, the intent is to free the taxi market and to bring it up to date. The bill was opposed by interest groups, such as the Federation of Icelandic Taxi Drivers, who say it will both drive down their wages and lead to a decline in service quality.

Read more: Taxi Drivers Stage Protest in Reykjavík

The bill, however, was not opposed by all. Hopp, a popular electronic scooter rental company, is now making moves into the taxi market.

Reykjavík residents will soon be able to order a taxi through the Hopp app, 15% cheaper compared with traditional taxi services in Iceland. The law now also allows taxi drivers to operate within multiple companies, meaning that drivers in Iceland’s established taxi fleet may now choose to also work part-time gigs at Hopp as well.

Eyþór Máni Steinarsson, CEO of Hopp, stated to Morgunblaðið: “Times change and so should transportation. We can drive down prices in the taxi market, and we aim to be 15% cheaper than our competition. There is, of course, a vocal minority who are concerned about these changes. We only accept taxi drivers who are legal and registered. But of course, we would like to see extensions there as well. The barriers in becoming a registered taxi driver don’t quite match the spirit of the times.”

Eyþór Máni continued: “This is the next step in the revolution against the private car. The best car is no car, but the next best is the one you share with others, and we want to make it easy for people to share cars, both the ones they drive themselves and the ones others drive. We also believe that many working taxi drivers would be willing to work for more than one station and will be happy to receive more fares and a more transparent way of assigning them.”

Read more: Taxi Drivers Demand Hearing with the Government

Some, however, are still concerned over the shakeups in the taxi market.

Daniel O. Einarsson, chairperson of the Federation of Icelandic Taxi Drivers, stated: “They begin by undercutting the competition to establish themselves in the market. But then they raise their prices. We’ve seen this strategy before, just like how Uber operates.”

With the new taxi bill now in effect, Hopp has opened applications for new drivers. Hopp has stated that they hope to launch their taxi service when they have enough drivers, hopefully this spring.

German Airline Condor Cancels Egilsstaðir and Akureyri Connections

condor airline iceland

German airliner, Condor, has cancelled its intended connections to Akureyri and Egilsstaðir, which were announced last summer. Vísir reports.

When the connections were announced, it was originally scheduled for weekly service between Frankfurt and the regional airports.

Read more: German Airline, Condor, to Begin Service to Akureyri and Egilsstaðir

According to Isavia, more time should have been given to allow travel agencies to prepare bookings in advance. Plans to begin the service in 2024 are reportedly underway.

According to Sigrún Björk Jakobsdóttir, managing director of Isavia’s domestic airports, “there are many factors that led to this result. The marketing abroad did not start early enough to take off for this year, and shifting market conditions also played a part in this happening. The interest of airlines in international flights to the North and East is constantly growing, we have seen this at many industry conventions abroad.”

Never More International Flights Direct to Icelandic Countryside

Akureyri and Egilsstaðir are smaller, regional airports. Akureyri is currently serviced by a handful of international connections, while Egilsstaðir is still only serviced by domestic flights. Many in the tourism industry hope to better connect Iceland’s regional airports, to open up North and East Iceland for more tourism.

Sigrún Björk also stated: “It is extremely important to continue offering access to the country through new portals in line with the government’s policy to promote tourism in all parts of the country. It will continue to be our main goal and the interest is clearly there. The availability of international flights through Akureyri has never been greater, and travel agencies that offer trips there have been increasing the number of trips.”

Market research indicates that many tourists who visit Iceland once express interest in exploring other, less accessible, parts of the country. Germany is a main driver in the growth of the Icelandic tourism industry, and Sigrún Björk expressed her full confidence in Condor’s future commitment to Icelandic connections.

Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson Wins Best Actor in BIF & ST Awards

Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson

Icelandic actor Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson has won best lead actor in the 2023 Bari International Film & TV Festival (BIF & ST) for his role in the 2022 film Driving Mum (Á ferð með mömmu), directed by Hilmar Oddson.

The award ceremony took place April 1 at the Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari.

In his winning performance, Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson portrays Jón, whose mother has recently passed away. The film, a black comedy, documents a road trip across Iceland with Jón, his dog, and his deceased mother.

In his acceptance speech, Þröstur thanked his colleague Kristbjörg Kjeld, director and writer Hilmar Oddson, and also producer Hlín Jóhannesdóttir for their cooperation. The dog Dreki, notable for his numerous appearances in Icelandic film, also received special thanks.

This is the third international award Driving Mum has received. Other prizes include the Grand Prix and Best Original Score at the 26th annual Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF).

With the award, Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson joins the rank of such past recipients as Max von Sydow, Helen Mirren, and Roberto Benigni.

 

 

 

Aid Station Opens in Neskaupstaður Following Avalanches

neskaupstaður avalanche

An aid station will be opening today, April 3, for the residents of Neskaupstaður and surrounding settlements that have been affected by the recent avalanches.

Some 850 residents have been forced to evacuate their homes since the first avalanches on the morning of March 27, making it one of the largest evacuations in Icelandic history. It has also been one of the largest ICE-SAR operations in Icelandic history, with some 300 members present at the height of rescue operations. Many residents have since returned, with The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management asking the returning residents to make use of the aid station.

Read more: Evacuations in Three Additional East Fjord Towns

Government ministers also made a trip out to the affected region over the weekend, including Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister of Environment, Energy, and Climate Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson.

The ministers met with municipal representatives to survey the progress of the operations and discuss future prevention measures.

Almannavarnir ICE-SAR
ICE-SAR teams at Egilsstaðir Airport – Almannavarnir

Katrín stated to RÚV: “It is a great relief that it was not worse and no one died in these avalanches. That’s the most important thing, but at the same time, the damage is extensive and it is shocking to see the effects of the avalanches. It is extremely important to provide strong support now.”

She stated further: “I understand that the municipal authorities are putting a lot of emphasis on speeding it up as much as possible. What faces us ministers who are here is to review these plans and investigate what can be done to accelerate this project even further.”

Read more: East Iceland Residents Warned of Heavy Rain and Runoff

In addition to the aid stations, Red Cross in Iceland will also be offering psychological services to affected residents.

The coast guard vessel, Þór, is also set to leave the area today. Dispatched on March 27, its crew has had a busy week assisting rescue operations. It was the first time Þór was dispatched in this capacity. In total, Þór left the capital region with a total complement of 40, including a crew of 20 and 20 members of ICE-SAR and the Reykjavík Fire Department.