A Guide to Reykjavík Airport

Reykjavík Airport.

Although Iceland is not the biggest country in terms of surface area, travelling between the south, west, north, and east can take a deceivingly long time. This is mostly due to the endless fjords and peninsulas you’ll weave through on the way. While these are quite often a sight for sore eyes, sometimes, you just don’t have the time or ability to make the journey. In these cases, domestic flights are a lifesaver, and, as luck would have it, there’s a domestic flight airport smack dab in the middle of Reykjavík: Reykjavík Airport. It’s been a topic of much debate due to its close proximity to residential areas, but for now, it’s here to help you explore Iceland in the quickest way possible. 

 

Airlines, destinations, and pricing

Three airlines fly from Reykjavík Airport, each to different towns and villages in Iceland. Icelandair flies to Akureyri in the north, Egilsstaðir in the east, Ísafjörður on the Westfjords, and Vestmannaeyjar islands in the south. Eagle Air (look for Flugfélagið Ernir on search engines) flies to Höfn in Hornafjörður in the southeast, and Norlandair flies to Bíldurdalur and Gjögur on the Westfjords, as well as Nerlerit Inaat in Greenland. Additionally, should none of the flight times or destinations meet your needs, Mýflug Air offers charter flights tailored to your plans.

This wide range of destinations allows a full and free exploration of Iceland for those who don’t have the time, desire, or capability to drive between the different parts of the country. Keep in mind that, as with most things in Iceland, airline tickets are probably quite a bit more expensive than what you’re used to. Prices for a one-way ticket range anywhere from ISK 14,000 [$99, €92] to 60,000 [$424, €395], depending on demand and location. To avoid the highest prices, book your tickets well in advance.

A group of people coming off an aeroplane at Akureyri Airport.
Photo: Golli. A group of people coming off an aeroplane at Akureyri Airport.

How to get to Reykjavík Airport

There are several ways to get to the airport. Firstly, with a walking distance of about 30 minutes from the city centre, there’s the option of going on foot. On a nice day, it’s a beautiful walk that will take you past Vatnsmýrin Nature Reserve, a small, protected moorland with 83 different plant species and plenty of birds. It’s equally pretty in winter as it is in summer, with the colder temperatures luring mystical-looking steam from the water.

If you don’t have a lot of luggage, you could also rent an e-scooter from Hopp. This is a great way to travel quickly and easily between locations while also enjoying the city. They have a pay-per-minute system, so depending on how far away you are, it might even be cheaper than taking the bus. Simply download the Hopp app, rent a scooter, and ride to the airport. Once you get there, you can park the scooter on the edge of the sidewalk and leave it for somebody else. 

A third option is to use Strætó, the public transport system which will take you almost to the door of the airport. Bus number 15 stops in a one-minute walking distance from the airport. If you haven’t been using Strætó, the best thing to do is download Klappið app, where you can purchase a single fair. For up-to-date pricing, see Strætó’s official pricing page. It is also possible to pay with cash, but as the drivers don’t have any change, you’ll have to have the exact amount to avoid paying more than you’re supposed to. 

Buses number 6, 4, and 15 at Hlemmur bus stop.
Buses number 6, 4, and 15 at Hlemmur bus stop.

If you have a rental car that you’re not dropping off before your flight, you can park it by the airport for a fee. The parking system uses automatic number plate recognition, which means that the system will calculate how much you owe based on the time you entered and exited the parking lot. To pay, you’ll need to create an account with Autopay. You should do this within 48 hours of exiting, or a late fee of ISK 1.490 [$10, €10] will be added to your charge. 

Lastly, there’s the option of taking a taxi. This is the most hassle-free way, allowing you to enjoy your journey without having to make any additional transportation plans, but note that taking a taxi in Iceland is very expensive. A 5 km trip within the city during the daytime will likely cost at least ISK 2,666 [$19, €18], or about four times the amount you would pay for a bus ticket.

How much luggage can you bring?

As for many international flights, on domestic flights in Iceland, 20 kg is a common maximum weight for checked-in bags and 6 kg for handbags. This will, of course, depend on the airline you’re flying with, so make sure to familiarize yourself with their rules. Security restrictions on what is allowed in hand luggage are similar to international flights, meaning that firearms, clubs, sharp tools, and anything else that could be considered a weapon are not allowed. However, you are allowed to travel with liquids. For a full list of restricted items, visit Isavia’s baggage information page

How long before departure should you arrive?

Seeing that the airport is a fraction of the size of Keflavík Airport, arriving to check in about 60 minutes before your departure is sufficient. The aeroplanes used to fly domestic flights are smaller than those used for international flights, and the amount of flights taking off and landing is far smaller than at Keflavík. This means that there are fewer people going through, leading to a less busy airport. There are also just two terminals, so you there’s no chance of getting lost and missing your flight. 

Reykjavík Airport from above.
Photo: Golli. Reykjavík Airport from above.

Are there food and beverages at Reykjavík Airport?

At the time of writing, the airport’s cafeteria is temporarily closed. However, there are a few vending machines where you can purchase food and coffee. Domestic flights generally do not offer food and beverages aboard, but if you think you might get hungry on the way, bringing your own refreshments – food and drink – is perfectly fine.  

Special assistance and hidden disabilities

Should you require a wheelchair or special assistance, please contact the airline you’re travelling with beforehand. This will allow them to plan ahead and make any necessary arrangements for your arrival. 

If you have a hidden disability, you can opt to wear the sunflower lanyard to make the journey as comfortable as possible. Airport staff are aware that passengers wearing them might need more time, patience, and understanding, and they will be happy to help you make your journey easier. If you don’t already have one, lanyards are available at the check-in desks in the departure hall and at the information desk in the arrival hall. 

Private flights

In addition to domestic flights flights and flights to Greenland, Reykjavík Airport is a common stopover for private jets. Due to Iceland’s convenient location in the middle of the Atlantic, it’s the ideal place to refuel your plane or divide up the journey between Europe and the United States. With its close proximity to Reykjavík city centre, it’s easy to hop off for a few hours to explore the attractions of the city or grab a bite at one of its exceptional restaurants before heading off again. 

Icelandair Unifies Domestic and International Brands

As of next week, Icelandair’s domestic and international flights will be merged under the Icelandair brand. The domestic brand Air Iceland Connect will be scrapped and the company’s domestic and international booking systems will be consolidated. Icelandair CEO Bogi Nils Bogason hopes the change will increase the number of passengers in domestic flights in Iceland.

“We hope that with strong marketing and connection to our route systems in Europe and North America, we will also be able to increase the number of tourists on domestic flights. It would strengthen our key destinations throughout the country and benefit our customers in increased frequency and better service,” Bogi stated. Once the change takes effect next Tuesday, March 16, domestic flights will be visible in the search engine on Icelandair’s website, and customers will be able to combine international and domestic flights in a single booking.

Icelandair will continue operating domestic flights to Akureyri, Egilsstaðir, Ísafjörður, and the Westman Islands. Air Iceland Connect and Norlandair had previously collaborated on flights to Bíldudalur and Gjögur from Reykjavík and flights to Grímsey, Vopnafjörður, and Þórshöfn from Akureyri. From March 16, these flights will only be available for booking through Norlandair’s website, though an announcement says the two companies will continue working closely together and services will remain unchanged.

Iceland Launches Subsidised Flights for Countryside Residents

Loftbrú subsidised flights

Residents of Iceland who live far from Reykjavík can now book subsidised flights to the capital three times a year. Transport Minister Sigurður Ingi Jóhannssón launched the initiative at a press conference in Egilsstaðir, East Iceland this afternoon. The project, called Loftbrú (Eng: Air Bridge), is intended to make services in the capital area more accessible to residents of the countryside.

Loftbrú is based on a similar initiative in Scotland ensuring affordable transportation to and from that country’s islands and highlands. Loftbrú applies to all registered residents of the Westfjords, Northeast Iceland, East Iceland, Hornafjörður (Southeast Iceland), the Westman Islands, and parts of Northwest Iceland. The subsidy covers 40% of the cost of scheduled flights to and from Reykjavík, regardless of whether they are full price or discounted. Each individual is eligible for up to three trips (six flights) per year through the initiative – though just one for the remainder of 2020.

Air Iceland Connect’s booking engine gives a good sense of the cost of domestic flights in Iceland. A return trip between Egilsstaðir and Reykjavík September 11-18, 2020 with one checked bag adds up to ISK 44,325 ($315/€267) for a single traveller. With the Loftbrú subsidy, the cost lowers to ISK 26,595 ($189/€160).

The subsidies are available to residents through island.is, the government’s official electronic services portal. Loftbrú is working on offering the same subsidy to students from the countryside temporarily residing in the capital area. That initiative is expected to be launched by the end of the year.

Loftbrú is expected to cost Iceland’s government ISK 600 million ($4.3m/€3.6m) per year, and ISK 200 million ($1.4m/€1.2m) in 2020. Funding to the project was allocated in the government’s transportation plan that was approved in June 2020.

Major, Yet Mobile, Renovations to Domestic Airport

Reykjavík domestic airport

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.

Reykjavík domestic airport.
[/media-credit] Reykjavík Domestic Airport.

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.

Air Iceland Connect to Sell One Third of Planes

Air Iceland Connect

The management of Iceland’s domestic airline Air Iceland Connect (Flugfélag Íslands) plans to sell two of their six airplanes due to a decline in passengers, RÚV reports. Since the beginning of this year, domestic air passengers have dropped by 10% compared to the same time last year. Árni Gunnarsson, the company’s CEO, believes domestic flights will eventually recover.

Just three years ago, Air Iceland Connect purchased three Bombardier Q400 planes, considerably larger than the Dutch Fokker planes that made up their fleet. The company later acquired a smaller Bombardier Q200 when it sold its Fokker planes. Their fleet eventually became six Bombardier planes, four of which were Q400 models.

Foreign tourists decrease more than locals

While the airline’s overall number of passengers has decreased by 10%, the drop among foreign passengers is more drastic, in the range of 30-40%. Besides potentially selling two airplanes, the company plans to take other measures to address the lower number of passengers. These include reducing the frequency of trips to Egilsstaðir and Ísafjörður this winter, and using smaller planes when possible. Árni states the company does not plan to resort to layoffs, though if they prove necessary they will not be drastic.