Niceair Cancels All UK Flights in June: “Brexit-Related Problems”

Airplane from Niceair

Niceair has cancelled all scheduled flights from Akureyri to the UK in June. The airline has experienced a few so-called “Brexit-related complications” as far as their Iceland-bound passengers are concerned, Vísir reports.

Brexit-related obstacles

Niceair embarked on its maiden flight from Iceland to the UK last week. The plane returned to Iceland empty, however, and travellers who had booked tickets back to Akureyri were forced to fly back with other airlines.

A press release from Niceair today announced that all scheduled flights from Akureyri to the UK in June had been cancelled, Vísir reports. Niceair operates aeroplanes from the Maltese charter airline HiFly, which British authorities maintain lacks the necessary permits to fly to and from the UK.

“They are, nevertheless, listed as certified flight operators by British authorities,” the press release reads. “Furthermore, the authorities stipulated that Niceair, an Icelandic company, secure a British travel-agency licence for the sale of travel packages (flights, hotels, rental cars), which lies beyond the operational purview of Niceair. Nowhere were these conditions mentioned during our three-month application process.”

“As far as we can gather,” the press release continues, “the problem, among other things, is that Iceland has a bilateral agreement with the UK on flight operations, and the UK has a similar agreement with the EU. These two agreements overlap in the UK. The problem arises once you begin transporting passengers from the UK to Iceland with a flight operator that has legal domicile in the EU (and not in Iceland or in the UK).” The press release also notes that it “appears likely” that the British authorities are worried about consumer protection; after Brexit, the UK authorities ceased automatic approval of European consumer legislation.

Unlikely that a solution will be found before the weekend

Despite Niceair working to resolve the matter, it is unlikely that a solution will be found before the weekend.

“We’ve worked non-stop to find a solution and have proposed numerous solutions to the British authorities,” the press release reads. “We’ve been aided by the Icelandic Transport Authority, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the British Embassy in Iceland – but no solution has been found. The weekend is fast approaching, and it sounds like a solution is unlikely before that time, owing to a lack of personnel and time.”

Travellers will be unable to book flights to the UK until a permanent solution is found. All passengers who had booked flights to the UK with the airline will be offered a refund. Niceair will also assist those looking to find alternative flights to or from the UK.

Mbl.is reported this afternoon that about 70 passengers who had flights booked to London with Niceair were waiting at the Akureyri airport. Their flight had been scheduled for yesterday evening but had been pushed back to noon today.

Government Sponsors 16 Flights to Bring Icelanders Home

The Ministry of Transport and Local Government has contracted Icelandair to provide a minimal number of flights between Iceland and North America and Europe. Per a press release published on the government’s website on Thursday, flights will be available to Iceland from Boston, London, and Stockholm until May 5.

“International flights play a vital role in the security of the Icelandic nation and these flights are, among other things, necessary to ensure that Icelandic citizens who are located abroad can find their way home,” reads the statement.

All total, 16 roundtrip flights (32 legs) are planned to/from the three destinations. The flight plan is subject to change, but is currently as follows:

Boston (Logan International – BOS) April 16, 18, 23, 25, 30; May 2

London (Heathrow – LHR) April 19, 22, 24, 26, 29; May 1 and 3

Stockholm (Arlanda – ARN) April 18 and 25; May 2

The Icelandic government will pay Icelandair a max of ISK 100 million [€639,624; $692,233] to fund the company’s extended operations, although that amount may be offset by revenue that the company generates from the offered flights.

Typically, the government would accept bids from contractors for providing a public service of this nature, but under emergency circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, law allows the government to contract directly with a service provider.

Icelandic Chess Championship Featured on London Stage

Spassky vs. Fischer

Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky are the main characters of a new London play that tells the story of their World Chess Championship match, held in Iceland in 1972. Occuring at the height of the Cold War, the match became known as the Match of the Century when the American Fischer broke the Soviet’s 24-year winning streak. Vísir reported first.

The play Ravens: Spassky vs. Fischer, written by Tom Morton-Smith, premiered at London’s Hampstead Theatre at the end of November. The character of Spassky is played by Roman Raftery, while Fischer is played by Robert Emms, whom readers may recognise from films such as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) and War Horse (2011).

Two Icelandic characters, based on real people, are also written into the play. The first is Guðmundur G. Þórarinsson, president of the Icelandic Chess Federation at the time the match took place. Guðmundur is played by English-Icelandic actor Gunnar Cauthery. The other Icelandic character is Fischer’s former bodyguard Sæmundur Pálsson, also known as Sæmi rokk, played by Gary Shelford.

Vísir tracked down the real-life Guðmundur to ask him whether he knew about his feature in the play. “Yes, someone called me. I thought it was a joke. But I doubt that I’m an important character in it.” Guðmundur says he wasn’t invited to the play, but that it “shows how this duel inspires people endlessly. Now it’s almost been 50 years. Fischer dies in 2008. And still people are coming and television networks getting interviews about him and the duel of course.”

Bobby Fischer became a target of the US government after he participated in a match in Yugoslavia in 1992, then under a United Nations embargo. He was eventually granted Icelandic citizenship by a special act of Alþingi, and he lived out his last years in the country. The South Iceland town of Selfoss, near which he is buried, has a museum dedicated to Fischer.

Guðmundur says the Ministry of Culture is working to put up a monument to commemorate the match between Spassky and Fischer near Laugardalshöll, where it took place.

Police Dogs Attend Training in North Iceland

K9 sniffer dogs

Icelandic police are currently training a new generation of sniffer dogs, RÚV reports. While there are currently seven detection dogs in use across the country, many of them are approaching retirement age. In order to renew the ranks, a new group of K9 recruits and their human partners are attending a course in Sauðárkrókur, Northwest Iceland.

It’s the first course of its kind held in Iceland in five years. Steinar Gunnarsson, head of police dog training, says that is about to change, as the course will be held yearly from now on. He hopes that within two years, every police division in the country will have at least one canine helper. London’s Metropolitan Police Service will perform quality control to ensure the dogs are at their best.

Craig Calthorpe, a dog trainer from the UK who was teaching at the course, had good things to say about Iceland’s four-legged detectives-in-training. “The dogs are focused, they’re concentrated, they’ve got a nice amount of drive, their enthusiasm to search is really good,” he stated.

Snjólaug Eyrún Guðmundsdóttir, a police officer from East Iceland, is attending the course alongside Bylur, who she got paired with last November. Snjólaug says the training is going well. The partnership extends beyond the office, she explains, as K9 officers live at home with their human partners. “He’s just a part of my home and is just like another child,” Snjólaug stated. “We go to work together and spend the day together, and all our free time too, it’s just great.”

London to Reykjavík Flight Passengers Exposed to Measles

Passengers flying from London to Reykjavík on February 14 and on Air Iceland Connect from Reykjavík to Egilsstaðir may have been exposed to the measles during their flights, RÚV reports. Iceland’s Chief of Epidemiology has been in touch with all the passengers who were onboard both flights, and those passengers who show any symptoms of the measles are encouraged to seek medical attention, particularly those who have never been vaccinated against it.

The affected flights were Icelandair FI455 and Air Iceland Connected NY356. Icelandair spokesperson Ásdís Ýr Pétursdóttir has confirmed that one passenger, who was travelling from the Philippines, has been infected with the measles. This discovery then initiated a standard protocol in collaboration with the Chief of Epidemiology regarding passenger notification.

People who may have been exposed to the virus are advised to be on the lookout for fever, cold symptoms, red eyes, and/or a rash. The website for the Directorate of Health advises any passengers on board either of the effected flights to be on the lookout for symptoms until March 7. The announcement also states that individuals with the measles are only contagious after symptoms begin to manifest and are then contagious for 7 – 10 days afterwards. In general, measles symptoms manifest 10 – 14 days after initial infection, but can still do so after as long as three weeks.

People who have already been vaccinated against the measles need not be vaccinated again, but those who have not, may be vaccinated within six days of infection. Measles vaccinations are available at local health clinics.

This is not the only time that a passenger has travelled through Iceland with the measles virus of late. In June, a passenger flying from Ukraine to Toronto via Berlin and Reykjavík was also found to have had the virus, triggering a similar notification from the Chief of Epidemiology and a vaccination advisory.

The Chief of Epidemiology considers it unlikely that there will be an outbreak of the measles in Iceland, as 95% of the Icelandic public is vaccinated against the virus.