First Ever Scheduled Flights from Iceland to Africa

iceland budget airline play

The airline PLAY has added two new destinations to their scheduled flights, Madeira in Portugal and Marrakesh in Morocco. The latter will be the first ever destination in Africa for scheduled flights to and from Iceland, Viðskiptablaðið reports.

The first flight to Madeira will be on October 15 this year and scheduled flights will take place once a week on Tuesdays. Flights to Marrakesh will begin on October 17, scheduled twice a week for Thursdays and Sundays.

Sunny destinations

“We continue to increase our options of destinations for Icelanders looking to bask in the sun and our schedule for Southern Europe is one of the most varied ever offered in Iceland,” said Birgir Jónsson, CEO of PLAY. “We have eight destinations in Spain and now three in Portugal. What’s more, we’ve added the enchanting city of Marrakesh to our schedule and I have full faith that Icelanders will welcome these first ever scheduled flights between Iceland and Africa.”

Icelandair Begins Scheduled Flights to Detroit

Keflavík airport Icelandair

Yesterday, Icelandair inaugurated its scheduled flight service to Detroit, Michigan. The airline plans to offer seasonal service to Detroit four times a week, Vísir reports.

“Bridging Motown and Europe”

At 17 PM yesterday, Icelandair embarked upon its first scheduled flight to the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) in Detroit, Michigan. As noted by Vísir, this marks the airlines return to the city after a brief stint in the 1980s. Presently, Icelandair serves thirteen destinations across the United States, and the addition of the Detroit route aims to cater to the sustained demand for travel to Iceland, as American tourists constitute the largest group visiting the country.

“Icelandair is pleased to offer a refreshing new choice when travelling to Detroit. Our new flights will offer business and leisure travellers more options to and from Iceland and beyond,” Bogi Nils Bogason, President & CEO of Icelandair Group, observed. “These new flights will open the doors for inbound and outbound travellers to make Detroit a relevant gateway in our network, boosting tourism and trade to and from the Motor City. We are excited to help bridge Motown with Europe and look forward to welcoming Detroit aboard.”

As noted in an article on Market Screener, Detroit is the birthplace of auto manufacturing in the United States, the second-largest regional economy in the American Midwest, and home to the legendary Motown music scene.

Reykjanesbraut Reopened, Delay in Keflavík Flights

Weather alerts

This article was updated at 1.30 PM.

Reykjanesbraut has been reopened and a number of delayed flights are expected to depart from Keflavík Airport starting at 3 PM. A yellow weather alert is in effect in the capital area and Reykjanes peninsula.

Travellers upset by delays, lack of information

A number of flights from Keflavík Airport were cancelled or delayed yesterday due to poor weather conditions, leaving hundreds of travellers stranded. Many of them complained about the lack of information and support provided by Isavia (the national airport and air navigation service provider of Iceland) and Icelandair, while also expressing dissatisfaction with low temperatures and the selection of food available at the airport.

Yellow weather alerts are still in effect but as of 1 PM this afternoon, Reykjanesbraut (the road leading from the capital area to the airport) has been reopened. The road was briefly opened to the east last evening but closed again last night.

A number of early-morning flights to Europe were cancelled and Icelandair has delayed daytime flights to Tenerife, Las Palmas, and Boston (estimated departures at 3 PM or later, at the time of writing).

Travellers can monitor the situation on the Icelandic Road Administration’s Twitter page, umferdin.is, and, of course, the departures and arrivals section of Keflavík Airport’s website.

Direct Flights to be Offered Between Zürich and Akureyri

edelweiss airline akureyri

Edelweiss, a Swiss airline, has announced that it will be offering direct flights between Zürich and Akureyri for a seven-week period this coming summer.

The flights will run from July 7 to August 18, but the airline has also announced plans to introduce a longer 4-month long route in the summer of 2024, if the route proves popular.

See also: Play Adds Routes to Stockholm, Hamburg

The route will be serviced by an Airbus A320, which is capable of carrying some 174 passengers.

In a press release, Edelweiss airline stated: “Akureyri is the ideal starting point for visiting the highlights of Iceland and can also be perfectly combined with flights to Keflavik. The airport in the north of the country is served every Friday.”

The new route is just one new addition in an attempt to increase international connections to the North of Iceland. German airline Condor has also announced new routes to Akureyri in the summer, giving travelers to Iceland more choices than previous, in addition to opening up a new region of the country to tourism.

PLAY Reports ISK 1.5 Billion Loss in Q1, Maintains ‘Strong Balance Sheet and Healthy Cash Position’

iceland budget airline play

Iceland’s newest discount airline, PLAY, reported a loss of ISK 1.5 billion [$11.5 million; €10.78 million] in the first quarter of 2022. Per the Interim Report (January – March 2022) issued by the company this week, this comes as no real surprise, and can largely be credited to global factors, namely, “[t]he Omicron variant impacted revenue during the quarter, and the war in Ukraine resulted in higher fuel price towards the end of the quarter.”

The negative EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes) was “expected,” writes CEO Birgir Jónsson, who remains optimistic about the airline’s prospects. Travellers are showing an increasing willingness to fly, and the airline’s “financial position…continues to be strong, with a strong balance sheet and healthy cash position.” PLAY’s equity ratio stands at 22% ($56.5 million; €52.7 million; ISK 7.3 billion) and it is maintaining a cash position of ISK 5.4 billion [$43 million; €39.2]. Currency risk is a factor in the airline’s operations, “…since a large part of its cash position is in the ISK, while PLAY’s operating currency is in USD. PLAY is therefore exposed to the fluctuation of the two currencies against each other.”

Rapid network expansion

Between January and March 2022, PLAY carried 57,500 passengers, with a 20% jump in passenger numbers from February to March. The airline hired 45 pilots and over 100 new cabin crew members in Q1.

PLAY is steadily expanding its network and plans to continue to do so in Q2. Service to Baltimore/Washington, D.C. began in April; service to Prague, Boston, Lisbon, Gothenburg, and Brussels began in May, with destinations Stavanger, Malaga, and Trondheim on the horizon before the end of the month. In early June, service to Palma de Mallorca and Bologna will commence, as will daily flights to New York in the US. Indeed, PLAY will be the first airline to operate international flights from New York Stewart International Airport (located about 75 mi; 120 km outside of New York City) post-pandemic.

‘Strong booking momentum’

As part of its strategy to counter rising fuel prices that have resulted from the war in Ukraine, however, PLAY is adjusting its summer fleet plan and will not be offering three weekly flights to and from Orlando, Florida this fall as planned. Additional measures to counter rising fuel prices include a fuel hedging strategy, a fuel surcharge, and ongoing schedule adjustments “to eliminate unprofitable flying.”

Passenger hesitation in the wake of the Omicron variant and global unrest appears to be waning, and bookings are on the upswing. “In February, [there were] 59% more sold seats compared to January, despite the war in Ukraine. This improvement in booking inflow has continued into the second quarter of 2022, with more than fourfold increase in sold seats in April compared to January. Because of this strong booking momentum,” concludes the report, “PLAY expects to report improved utilization in the coming months.”

Play Launches Flights to the US Next Spring

PLAY airline airplane Keflavík flight

The Icelandic airline Play will begin offering flights to the US next spring. The airline will add three new aircraft to its fleet next year.

Flights to the east coast starting in April

As reported by Business Insider, the Icelandic airline PLAY has received initial approval from the US Department of Transportation to operate flights to the US.

Tickets to the US went on sale yesterday. Play will begin flying to Washington/Baltimore on April 20 and Boston starting May 11. It will thereby become the third carrier to offer flights to the US; Icelandair offers flights to over a dozen destinations in the States, and the US airlines Delta and United are currently offering flights to the States in the summer.

Low prices, high demand

Speaking to RÚV yesterday, Play’s CEO Birgir Jónsson suggested that the airline would continue to focus on low prices – “a comfortable, clean, and secure way of transport,” as he remarked in his interview with Business Insider, as opposed to “an experience.”

“It’s always been our aim to operate according to this model,” Birgir said to RÚV. “We’ve seen that what matters most in this business are ticket prices and, therefore, operational costs. We believe that we can secure our place in the market by offering the lowest prices.”

Birgir added that he was not afraid of Icelandair responding to Play’s foray into the US market by lowering its prices – that lower prices would benefit all consumers. According to the flight schedule, Play will offer daily flights to the abovementioned destinations in spring, leaving Iceland in the afternoon and returning on the following mornings.

Great expectations

As has been widely reported, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the airline industry. Birgir remains hopeful, however, that the state of affairs vis-a-vis the pandemic will have improved by next summer.

“I think most of us expect the tourism industry to return to normal next summer, but like before, we must proceed cautiously; we’ll begin by offering flights to two new destinations and go from there.”

With the addition of the three new aircraft next year, Play’s fleet will number six aeroplanes, and four new aircraft are expected to be added in 2023. When asked about the impact of COVID-19 on the airline’s operations, Birgir stated that it’s had its effect but that bookings have been steady:

“All in all, we’re happy with the reception and how things have progressed.”

Air Services Agreement Signed With Ukraine

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Cooperation Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir and Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmyto Kuleba signed an Air Services Agreement between Iceland and Ukraine yesterday. This is the first international agreement Þórdís signs in her new role as Minister.

The agreement was signed in Stockholm where Þórdís Kolbrún is attending a Ministerial Council of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Dmytro Kuleba signed the agreement on behalf of Ukrainian authorities. This is the first air service agreement between Iceland and Ukraine, and it addresses commercial flights between the two countries.

“Air Services Agreements are among the most important international agreements ensuring transportation to and from Iceland, as well as facilitating access to international markets for Icelandic flight operators,” stated Þórdís Kolbrún. “The global pandemic has shown how fragile this environment can be for outside effects. Even though we’ve had to adapt to changed situations, we will of course continue to take the interests of flight operators into account when making agreements such as this one.”

Icelandair’s Boeing 737 Max Jets Airborne Again

Keflavík airport Icelandair

Icelandair flew a Boeing 737 Max jet yesterday for the first time in almost two years. The jets were grounded around the world in March 2019 after a failure in their software caused two fatal accidents. Since then, the aircrafts’ computer equipment has been updated in accordance with aviation authorities’ requirements. Icelandair is giving passengers the option to change their flights at no cost if they prefer not to fly on the jets.

Icelandair’s Boeing 737 Max jet named Mývatn landed safely in Copenhagen yesterday morning after a three-hour flight from Iceland. Icelandair PRO Ásdís Ýr Pétursdóttir told RÚV the flight went according to plan, and there were few requests from passengers to change their tickets. For the time being, Icelandair is allowing passengers scheduled on 737 Max jets to do so at no additional cost.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency approved the use of the MAX aircraft at the end of January, and the US Federal Aviation Administration authorised passenger flights in mid-November.

 

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.

Icelandair Has Cancelled Nearly Three Quarters of Flights This Month

Icelandair

Icelandair has cancelled nearly 73% of flights that were scheduled so far this month, RÚV reports. The airline’s CEO says the cancellations are due to low demand caused by Iceland’s strict travel restrictions. Foreign airlines flying to and from Iceland have operated 95.6% of scheduled flights during the same period.

“We simply can’t fly flights where there are few passengers and very little demand and we can’t fly flights at an operational loss. That simply doesn’t add up in the long term and not in the short term either in the situation we are in now,” stated Bogi Nils Bogason, Icelandair’s CEO. Bogi added that he could not answer as to how other airlines were managing to continue their scheduled flights. The number of travellers arriving in Iceland has dropped significantly since August 19, when rules went into effect requiring all arriving passengers to undergo double COVID-19 testing and five-day quarantine.

Icelandair to Receive Line of Credit with State Guarantee

Like most airlines in the world, Icelandair has faced operational difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, the Icelandic government decided to provide Icelandair a line of credit with a state guarantee. State-owned banks Íslandsbanki and Landsbankinn would finance the loan, which would amount to up to $120 million (about ISK 16.5 billion), and the state guarantee would apply to 90% of the amount loaned. Three parliamentary bills concerning the loan have been passed by Iceland’s parliament, but the initiative is subject to the two parties reaching an agreement on the terms, and the success of Icelandair’s planned refinancing initiative.

Customers Eligible for Refund and Damages

Most of Icelandair’s cancellations have been announced to travellers with short notice. Iceland’s Consumer Protection Agency (Neytendasamtök) has stated that customers whose flights were cancelled have a right to receive a refund and damages from the airline, and has encouraged those affected to seek out their rights.