The City of Reykjavík has given the go-ahead for major renovations to Reykjavík Domestic Airport, despite the fact that a majority of the council members support moving the airport out of the city centre entirely. RÚV reports that the city granted domestic airline Air Iceland Connect a permit to carry out major renovations at the airport earlier this fall. The airport’s location by the city centre has long been a bone of contention among politicians and city residents.
“There are significant improvements that we would want to make here,” stated Árni Gunnarsson, CEO of Air Iceland Connect. “Of course, the premises are a little overdue [for renovation] and although we have tried to maintain it as much as possible, it’s time for major improvements.”
The renovations include demolishing most of the existing terminal and build a new one in its place. While the federal transport plan allocates ISK 1 billion ($8m/€7.2m) for maintenance of the airport, Árni stated it was unclear what the overhaul would cost or when it would be carried out.
Sigurborg Ósk Haraldsdóttir, chairperson of the city’s Planning and Transportation Committee, expressed support for the renovations and stated she hopes the construction can begin in the coming weeks. “I think it’s time to improve access to the terminal and especially to improve access for everyone and access to the bus,” she stated.
The domestic airport’s location has been hotly debated for decades: while some point out its central position is convenient for travellers and emergency transport to the nearby National Hospital, others argue the prime real estate would be better used for additional housing near the city centre. Sigurborg did not consider it contradictory to launch renovations when the majority of the city council opposes the airport remaining at its current location. “This is simply part of the agreement between the state and the city from 2013 that stipulated the closure of the small runway. It also provided for the addition of approach lights, to thin the forest on Öskjuhlíð and then to improve and enlarge the terminal,” she stated.
In 2013, design of the new terminal building was planned to allow for it to be taken apart and constructed elsewhere should the airport later be relocated. It appears that remains the case: Sigurborg confirmed that the land-use plan specifies the new buildings are temporary in nature.