Flying to Iceland

Keflavík airport Icelandair

Flying to Iceland in the near future? Which airlines should you take, and how can you find the best travel deals? Read on to find out more about flying to Iceland. 

Flying to Iceland need not be complicated.

In fact, the reality of having only a single airport, Keflavík International, already simplifies much of your travel planning. On top of that, approximately 20 different airlines include Iceland among their destination. 

Once your flights are booked, there’s nothing else for it but packing your bags, donning some thermal wear, and taxiing to the airport. Yee-hah!

(Alright, you might want to plan a little more than that. Try reading our featured Before You Go articles; How to Pack for Winter in Iceland and How to Pack for Summer in Iceland.) 

Table of Contents

 Photo: Golli. Seljalandsfoss on the South Coast

 If you happen to be European or American, Iceland is very accessible as a travel destination. It is approximately a two-hour flight from the United Kingdom, and only a six-hour flight from New York. That means, depending on where you hail from, it might be quicker getting to Iceland than it is somewhere else in your own country. 

Consider that – the world really is such a small place! And a country as strange and alluring as Iceland is right on your doorstep. 

Naturally, a vacation in Iceland promises awe, excitement, reflection – all in equal measure. But before you and your family can experience the wonders that the land of ice and fire has in store, you first have to get here

Thankfully, that can be a thrilling experience in itself given you’ll be arriving at Keflavik International Airport, a modern terminal situated atop a live lava field.  

Keflavík International Airport 

Keflavík airport
Photo: Páll Stefánsson. Iceland’s international airport in Keflavík

 As Keflavík (KEF) is Iceland’s only international airport. Do not get it confused with Reykjavík Domestic Airport, which deals solely in local flights. 

Keflavík International Airport is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, a volcanic spit of land in the southwest of the country. You can read more about this fascinating part of the country in our full article, All About The Reykjanes Peninsula

It is approximately forty minutes drive from the capital city, Reykjavík. Bus transfers from the airport to various drop-off points throughout Reykjavík run 24/7. 

What are the cheapest airlines flying to Iceland?

 

While it might be surprising for a country with less than 400,000 citizens, Iceland actually operates multiple airlines of its own. The oldest, and largest, is IcelandAir, which flies from over fifty destinations around the world. 

Icelandair 

Keflavík airport Icelandair
Photo: Golli. IcelandAir boeing.

Icelandair began in 1937 as Flugfélag Akureyrar. It was, as the name suggests, founded in Akureyri. Three years later, it would move its headquarters to Reykjavík and change its moniker. The company began its first international flights in the 1940s, flying first to the Faroe Islands and Denmark. In the years since, they have become an internationally recognised airline, with many destinations and routes on their roster. 

Icelandair celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2017. It was a worthy milestone given the stellar reputation for comfort and efficiency IcelandAir has nurtured since first taking to the air. Most recently, Icelandair added fresh routes to Iceland’s big brother, Greenland, making the corners of the North Atlantic more accessible than ever before.   

A WizzAir Boeing
Photo: WizzAir Facebook.

Budget airlines in Iceland 

 

A cheaper option would be the recently opened budget-airline, WizzAir. With over 950 routes to choose from, it is easy to see why WizzAir is the number one option for many travellers, especially those keeping a tight grip of their wallet. 

Perhaps the fact Iceland has two airlines is not so shocking after all. In the last ten years, Iceland has become a must-visit destination amongst travellers. 

This is, in large part, due to its ethereal nature, from bubbling hot springs to cascading waterfalls and epic mountain rangers. Iceland truly is a place straight out of a storybook. 

However, a handful of guests are surprised to find Iceland a modern, technologically-savvy, culture, as well as one that recognises the importance of tourist infrastructure.

When are the best times to fly to Iceland? 

 Photo: Golli. Reyjavík in the summer, a prime time for a visit to Iceland

Ultimately, this question depends on whether you would rather experience Iceland in the winter or summer. Both seasons offer plenty of reasons to visit. 

For example, in summertime, Iceland is illuminated throughout the night by the fascinating Midnight Sun. This unique and, some might say, otherworldly phenomenon occurs because of Iceland’s geographical position, close to the Arctic Circle. 

With more sunlight means more time to explore all that Iceland has to offer. That might be horse-riding through mossy lava fields. It could be snorkelling in a crystalline glacial ravine, Maybe it’s simply enjoying waterfalls and villages along the South Coast. Whatever type of vacation you’re hoping to find in Iceland, the summer is sure to have you covered. 

Sightseeing is just one of the popular activities during winter in Iceland
 Photo: Golli. Gullfoss waterfall in Winter.

That is, of course, unless you happen to be seeking a frozen wonderland. 

Of the activities just listed, know that these can all be booked in the winter too, only the land is shrouded in twinkling white snow. Seeing the Northern Lights is just one of the greatest draws for guests at this time of year. It’s also the time to visit stunning ice caves, experience a spot of dog sledding in Iceland’s north, or even conquer a mighty glacier.  

Iceland as a stopover destination 

pedestrian street Laugavegur Reykjavík
 Reykjavíkurborg. Pedestrian street Laugavegur in the centre of Reykjavík on a busy summer day

Iceland is located midway between North America and continental Europe, and is therefore primed as a fantastic stopover destination for those travelling back and forth. Adding extra days to your itinerary in order to discover what all the fuss is about is worth it for those with time to spare. 

As we’ve mentioned, Reykjavík and many beloved natural attractions – be they waterfalls or national parks – are fairly close to Keflavik Airport. That means that even visitors staying at the airport’s hotels still have an opportunity to fill their days with fun and adventure. Best of all, an Iceland stopover has something to offer all different types of traveller, be you a businessperson or a family coming home from vacation. 

There are many quick tours that do not require multiple days of travel to experience. Take a trip into the Lava Tunnel, for instance. Not only is it a mere hour’s drive from the airport, but it can be fully experienced in a single hour. Our feature article, , breaks down what you can expect from this quick, underground adventure. 

A stopover in Iceland does not have to break the bank. Transatlantic flyers with IcelandAir can actually add stopover days in Iceland at no extra cost. In fact, you can add up to a week, completely for free! 

Is there an alternative to flying?

MS Norröna
 Photo: Smyril Line. MS Norröna is the only ferry that travels to Iceland.

Given that Iceland is an island, the simplest means of getting here is by air travel. However, there is one other option for European guests… 

Catching a ride on the MS Norröna

Travelling by the high seas like a real Viking voyager might be preferable for some visitors. Well, good news considering this car ferry makes regular trips between Denmark, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland, making port at the eastern town of Seyðisfjörður. 

In the summer, the boat is fully decked out with its own cinema, restaurants, and a swimming pool. Such luxuries might make you question the logic of flying in on a cramped plane, but winter travellers might experience less red-carpet treatment. The MS Norröna resembles more of a cargo ship during this season on account they operate a smaller crew and ferry less passengers.

Tourists in the Sapphire Ice Cave.

Where can I find travel deals for flying to Iceland? 

 

Before booking a trip to Iceland, it is advised to scour the internet for any deals that may be available. As the world is aware by now, Iceland can be an expensive destination to visit, so cutting costs wherever possible is a wise fiscal choice.

You can also keep track of airfares using websites like Google Flights and Kayak. And, while they may be better suited until after you’ve made a booking, Flightstats and Flightaware can also come in handy for keeping on top of your flight details. 

When it comes to finding the right tours and activities during your stay, you will find Iceland Review has a range of exciting and competitively-priced excursions available.

When looking for deals, your first stop should always be the airlines own website.  The following airlines fly to Iceland:

State Arbiter Seeks to Settle Airport Labour Dispute

Keflavík Airport

The State Conciliation and Mediation Officer has called for a meeting at noon today, RÚV reports, in the hopes of working out a deal between the union of public servants Sameyki, the union of aviation workers, and management.

Negotiating since 2023

As reported, these workers have been trying to negotiate a new contract since 2023, to no avail.

Things came to a head last month, as the unions involved felt no headway was being made in their negotiations with SA (the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise), who were operating on behalf of Isavia, the company which conducts operations for Keflavík International Airport. This led to the overwhelming majority of union members–80%–voting in favour of a series of work stoppages.

Government intervention

The purpose of the State Conciliation and Mediation Officer, who represents the government, is to intervene and serve as a third party between labour and management in the hopes of drawing up a labour deal that both sides can live with, even if just temporarily.

Strikes and work stoppages at airports are a particularly sensitive matter, given how much revenue is generated through tourism. The intended work stoppages would occur from 4:00AM to 8:00AM on the 10th, 16th, 17th and 20th of May, and would bring departures to a halt. That being the case, time is of the essence as these three parties meet to work out a deal.

Icelandic Tourist Board Report: Second-Busiest Summer on Record

tourists on perlan

A recent report by the Icelandic Tourist Board shows summer 2023 to have been another record year for travel to Iceland.

Approximately 790,000 foreign tourists arrived in the country through Keflavik Airport last summer, about a quarter more than the summer of 2022, making it the second-busiest travel summer since measurements began.

Americans most numerous

Americans were by far the most numerous group of travellers. With around 300,000 in total, they accounted for almost two out of every five tourists.

Other top nations include Germany (60,000 travellers; 7.7% total visits), Poland (52,000 travellers; 6.6% total visits), France (40,000 travellers; 5.1% total visits), and the UK (35,000 travellers; 4.4% total visits).

Of these travellers, the vast majority, about 95% of tourists, were on vacation in Iceland this summer. The remaining 5% were travelling to visit friends and family, on a business trip, or had other reasons for travel.

Capital region most popular

The Reykjavík area continues to be by far the most popular destination among foreign tourists. 90% of travellers visited the Reykjavík area during their travels, due to its proximity to Keflavík International Airport and the services offered.

The South Coast was the second most popular destination, with 79% of travellers visiting. The South Coast was followed by the Reykjanes Peninsula (66%), West Iceland and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula (46%), North Iceland (32%), and East Iceland (28%). The Westfjords were the least popular destination, with only 13% of foreign travellers visiting this remote region of Iceland.

Stable pattern in overnight stays

The report noted that at an average of 8.6 nights, the number of overnight stays has remained the same as in 2022. The trend, however, has been towards increasingly longer stays in Iceland, as an average of 7.5 nights was recorded in 2018, and an average of 7.8 nights in 2019. The report notes that travellers seem to prefer staying in destinations for longer after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Americans were found to spend comparatively less time in Iceland than others, at an average of 6.9 nights. Of the top ten nationalities, German and French travellers had the longest stays, averaging 10.9 nights. Following them were Spanish, Italian, and Dutch tourists with stays ranging from 8.8 to 9.5 nights.

New records

Hotel nights in registered accommodations numbered about 4.3 million for the summer of 2023, an all-time record. This represents an 8.6% increase in hotel nights compared to the summer of 2022. Approximately two out of every five nights were spent in hotels, about 14% in guesthouses, and almost half (46.3%) in other types of accommodations.

The increase in stays in registered accommodations is largely attributable to the increasing preference for longer stays.

Read the full report here (in Icelandic).

Icelandair Resumes Service Between Keflavík and Akureyri in Trial

icelandair akureyri keflavík

Icelandair has resumed service between Akureyri and Keflavík International Airport.

The connection was last offered in 2019, and since then, Akureyri residents travelling internationally have needed to first fly to the Reykjavík airport, and then travel to Keflavík International Airport.

Limited time offer

According to an Icelandair press release, the first passengers on Icelandair’s international connection from Akureyri to Keflavik Airport were treated to a light coffee service at Akureyri Airport this morning. The international connection will be available from October 15 to November 30, 2023. During this period, flights will operate three times a week from Akureyri to Keflavik, departing at 5:50 AM on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and three times a week from Keflavik to Akureyri on Wednesdays at 9:20 PM, and Fridays and Sundays at 5:15 PM.

The decision was made to schedule the flight early, as accommodation options in North Iceland are limited during the summer. Icelandair has previously stated that it hopes to strengthen and develop the international connection from Akureyri.

The route is currently scheduled as a trial, though service may be expanded in the future if the connection proves popular.

As this flight is an international connection, security screening will be conducted at Akureyri Airport, and it can only be booked in conjunction with an Icelandair international flight.

Looking ahead

Tómas Ingason, Director of Revenue, Service, and Marketing at Icelandair stated to the press:  “The international connection from Akureyri has received a very positive reception right from the start, as it significantly shortens travel time for Northerners to Icelandair’s European destinations. With this connection, we also aim to promote better distribution of travellers around the country and stimulate increased demand for trips to Akureyri, especially during the winter. It’s exciting to announce that those who took the first flight from Akureyri this morning are on their way to various destinations across Europe, including Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, Tenerife, Dublin, London, Copenhagen, and Helsinki.”

 

 

Icelandair June Flights Up 20% From Last Year

Keflavík airport Icelandair

Icelandair saw 519,000 passengers in June of 2023. This figure represents a 20% increase over June of last year, when Icelandair served some 431,000 passengers.

The first half of 2023 has seen some 1.8 million passengers fly with the Icelandic airline, an increase of 31% compared with 2022.

International flights of course comprised the great majority of June flights, at 493,000. Of these international flights, 43% were to Iceland, 13% from Iceland, and 44% were stop-over passengers.

According to Icelandair, demand from North America has been particularly strong. Icelandair operated at 86% load capacity this June, and 90% load capacity for its North American routes.

Despite the increased numbers, only 67% of international flights were on time. Icelandair stated that this figure was below the company’s goals.

25 Airbus jets

In addition to the growing passenger number, the airline also announced its acquisition of 25 Airbus A321XLR aircraft.

The agreement was signed on April 7 and is now finalised.

The new jets, whose XLR designation indicates “Extra Long Range,” boast 11 hours of non-stop flight time, a capacity of 220 seats, and a 30% lower fuel burn than the previous generation of airliners. According to Airbus’ website, the model is intended to combine the long range and comfort of widebody jets with the economic savings of a single-aisle jet.

Delivery of the new aircraft is expected to begin in 2029.

Bogi Nils Bogason, President and CEO of Icelandair stated regarding the latest purchase: “We are very pleased to announce that we have now finalized the purchase agreement with Airbus. The efficient A321XLR aircraft will further strengthen our business model, increase our flexibility and provide opportunities for future growth, as well as further support our sustainability efforts.”

 

Flights Cancelled, Passengers Unable to Disembark Due to High Winds

Gale-force winds and heavy snowshowers caused considerable disruptions for travellers on Sunday, Mbl.is and RÚV report. While most international flights were cancelled or delayed before they departed, however, eight flights from North America were already en route to Keflavík when the weather took a turn for the worst. The unfortunate passengers on seven of these flights were stuck in their planes for six or more hours, as it was too windy to use jet bridges for disembarkation.

On Sunday, the Met Office issued an orange warning for the west and southwest of Iceland, which experienced winds of 18-28 m/s [40-62 mph]; a yellow warning was issued for the rest of the country, where winds gusted at an ever-so-slightly calmer 18-25 m/s [40-55 mph].

Search and Rescue teams used a bus and another large vehicle to shelter an external stairway from the wind. Image via Lögreglan á Suðurnesjum, FB

Eight hundred passengers stranded in planes on runway

Eight airplanes transporting close to 800 passengers from North America landed at Keflavík on Sunday morning around 6:00 am. One of these planes, arriving from Newark, New Jersey, was able to disembark without issue. The other seven were not so lucky. The wind picked up and became too strong to allow for the use of jet bridges. Search and Rescue teams were called in to assist with the disembarking process.

As of 1:00 pm, only one plane’s passengers had been able to exit their aircraft. Search and Rescue teams managed to successfully evacuate the flight, which had flown in from Miami, Florida, by rolling an external stairway up to the pane, sheltering it from the wind with large vehicles, and rigging up a rope system to help passengers keep their balance as they went out into the frosty gusts.

At time of writing, Search and Rescue teams were still working diligently to evacuate the remaining airplanes, and do so as safely as possible.

Power Outage Leaves Keflavík International on Backup Power

Keflavík airport

A power outage left all of Suðurnes, the part of the Reykjanes peninsula outside the capital area, without power for some time yesterday. As of the time of writing, power has been restored in all areas.

The outage began around 3:00 PM yesterday and power was largely restored by 6:00 PM.

For some time during the outage, Keflavík International Airport needed to run on backup power.

In a statement to Morgunblaðið, Isavia information officer Guðjón Helgason said that all backup power generators were in operation, and that the operations were not affected. There were no disruptions to the electrical system, but no hot water was available for some time. Guðjón further stated that Keflavík was capable of running on backup power for significant periods of time.

Thankfully, the most serious disruption were to handball viewership. After Suðurnes residents expressed their fears that they may miss the South Korea – Iceland match, the local Search and Rescue team “Þorbjörn” stepped in.

Grindavík residents were invited to watch the match at the local Search and Rescue station, which has its own backup power generator. Bogi Adolfsson, chairperson of Þorbjörn, stated to Morgunblaðið that about 30 people were in attendance and that it was a “great atmosphere.” Iceland beat South Korea 38 – 25 in the Kristianstad match, Iceland’s last match in the D Group.

The power outage was caused by a disruption in a substation in Fitjar, a district in Reykjanesbær.