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. 

Flights Delayed as Iceland’s Air Traffic Controllers Strike

Keflavík Airport

Dozens of flights to and from Keflavík and Reykjavík airports have been delayed this morning due to industrial action by the Icelandic Air Traffic Controller Association. The strike ends at 10:00 AM, but will have ripple effects on flights throughout the day as airlines scramble to get passengers to their destinations. Many are expected to miss their connecting flights.

The airline Play has announced the disruption of 19 flights, five of them from North America and fourteen from Iceland to destinations in Europe. The arrivals of North American flights and the departures of European flights have been delayed until the work stoppage ends at 10:00 AM. Icelandair has delayed 12 flights from North America this morning along with most of European flights. In addition, a number of flights have been combined and destinations altered. A flight scheduled for London Gatwick will land at London Heathrow and a flight to Paris will end up in Amsterdam. Planned flights to Zürich and Munich will head to Frankfurt, while a scheduled flight to Stockholm is now destined for Copenhagen.

More work stoppages announced

A second round of work stoppages is expected Thursday morning if a resolution to the labour dispute is not reached before then, with further action taking place next week, according to Mbl.is reporting on the labour dispute. A round of negotiations between air traffic controllers and Isavia, the company that operates all public airports in Iceland, ended last night without an agreement. Al­dís Magnús­dótt­ir, the state mediator in the dispute, says discussions will resume later today. However, the parties are not close to an agreement, according to both Aldís and Arnar Hjálmsson, president of the Air Traffic Controller Association. If the dispute is not resolved, further industrial action will take place on December 14, 18 and 20.

Repeated air traffic controller strikes

The collective agreement of air traffic controllers expired on October 1 and negotiations have gone very slowly. This is the third air traffic controller strike in Iceland in five years. Arnar asserts that the salaries of Iceland’s 152 air traffic controllers have lagged compared to other professions in the industry in recent years. The strike makes exceptions for emergency and coast guard flights.

 

Isavia Demands Felling of 2,900 Trees in Öskjuhlíð

Perlan Öskjuhlíð haust autumn

The operator of Reykjavík Domestic Airport, Isavia, has requested that 2,900 trees in Öskjuhlíð forest be felled immediately, or 1,200 of the forest’s tallest trees, to improve flight safety. Öskjuhlíð is one of the oldest forests in Reykjavík and is on the natural heritage register. If the request is approved, it would constitute felling about one-third of the forest or at least half of its oldest and tallest trees.

Isavia sent a request to the City of Reykjavík on July 6 demanding city authorities fell trees within the approach zone to the airport from the east in order to improve flight safety. Isavia suggests two possibilities: felling all the trees within two areas of the forest, a total of 2,900 trees; or felling around 1,200 of the forest’s tallest trees.

Reykjavíkurborg. What Öskjuhlíð would look like with the 2,900 trees felled (inside the red dotted line)
Reykjavíkurborg. What Öskjuhlíð would look like with the 2,900 trees felled (inside the red dotted line).

Protected green space enjoyed by many

The forest enjoys protection both within the neighbourhood zoning plan and as a city park in the city’s master zoning plan. Öskjuhlíð is also on the natural heritage register. Felling the trees is subject to the consultation and approval of various parties, including the Icelandic Institute of Natural History.

The felling would come at a significant cost, at least ISK 500 million [$3.8 million; €3.5 million] to fell 2,900 trees. That price tag would not include the necessary landscaping of the area after the trees are cut down and removed. In 2017, around 140 trees in the forest were felled to increase flight safety. Isavia put the project out to tender and footed the bill.

Öskjuhlíð is a popular site for outdoor recreation as well as the location of Reykjavík landmark Perlan. Reykjavík University is nestled at the base of the forest and religious organisation Ásatrú has facilities in Öskjuhlíð as well, where they hold regular events. The greater Reykjavík area does not have many forests to boast of, the two main ones besides Öskjuhlíð being Heiðmörk and Elliðárdalur.

Airport location a long-standing debate

Research has shown that afforestation carried out in the greater Reykjavík area since the middle of the 20th century, including in Öskjuhlíð, has decreased the intensity of storms and reduced average windspeeds in and around the city. Instead of felling trees, some have argued that the landing route to the domestic airport from the east could be made safer by extending the runway further west. That would require extending the existing runway out over the ocean, however.

The location of Reykjavík Domestic Airport has been a hot-button issue almost as long as the airport has been around. An agreement has now been made to move it from its current location in Vatnsmýri and build a residential development in its place – but a new location for the airport is yet to be determined and its relocation remains a source of tension between the sitting government and the City of Reykjavík.

British Army Off the Hook for Mining of Rauðhólar

Reykjavík City Airport flugvöllur

New information has come to light regarding the destruction of Rauðhólar, or the Red Hills, a natural area of craters by Elliðavatn lake in the capital area.

Originally, some 80 of these craters stood on the edge of Reykjavík, but their numbers have decreased due to gravel mining. Previously, it had been believed that the British military levelled much of this area for construction material during the Second World War, with some calling this one of Iceland’s first natural disasters of the modern era. However, recent evidence reported by Vísir shows that aerial photographs taken of the area taken shortly after the war prove that this is not the case.

Friðþór Eydal, an author interested in the activities of the British army during the war years, said in a statement to Vísir: “Mining had already begun here before the British started their construction of the Reykjavík airport.” The city of Reykjavík, according to Friðþór, had begun using the site for gravel in road construction before the British arrived.

Much material for the construction of the Reykjavík airport came from Öskjuhlíð, the hillside now home to Perlan, and also Fífuhvammur in Kópavogur. There was indeed gravel from Rauðhólar utilised in the construction of the Reykjavík airport, but the British also took careful records of the amounts removed.

According to Friðþór, the 95,000 cubic metres taken by the British army can’t account for the total damage done to the Rauðhólar area. Additionally, the new photographic evidence taken in 1946 still shows the area as largely in tact.

The largest part of Rauðhólar then must have been taken after the war, by the city of Reykjavík itself.

The area was mined for gravel up until 1961, when it was given protected status.

 

 

 

Three Hundred Participate in Disaster Drill at Reykjavík Airport

An extensive disaster drill was held at the Reykjavík International Airport on Saturday, involving police, the fire department, ambulances, search and rescue teams, Red Cross representatives, and 60 people who volunteered to play injured civilians. RÚV reports that three hundred people took part in the exercise. Drills of this magnitude are held at every international airport every four years.

Jónas Sigurbjörnsson (Björgunarsveitin Ársæll)

These drills are extremely important for emergency responders, says Árni Birgisson, coordinator of airports and aviation security for Isavia. “Fortunately, flying is our safest form of travel, so our readiness is very seldom put to the test other than through these exercises.” To ensure that responders are prepared for every eventuality, considerable effort is put into making the drills as realistic as possible.

Jónas Sigurbjörnsson (Björgunarsveitin Ársæll)

The scene on Saturday was a dramatic one, with thick black smoke wafting over the site of the drill. According to the staged scenario, an airplane was supposed to have skidded off the runway during landing and collided with a stationary plane. This crash would have caused one of the planes to burst into flame and resulted in the death or serious injury of dozens of people.

Volunteers playing victims in the drill were, therefore, posed in various states of distress along the runway so that responders would have to act fast and prioritize the injured, even as the plane continued to burn.

Transport Minister: Reykjavík Cannot Build Next to City Airport

skerjafjörður

The City of Reykjavík cannot start building a residential development beside the City Airport until another location for the airport has been established, Iceland’s Transport Minister Sigurður Ingi Jóhansson has stated. Officials of Isavia, the company that operates the airport, have expressed concern that planned buildings near runways would create wind currents that would impact flight safety. City authorities had planned to begin construction of the new development this summer.

Agreement between city and state

In an interview taken at the City Airport this morning, Sigurður Ingi pointed to an agreement made between the City of Reykjavík and the state in November 2019. “As long as another option, equally good or better, has not been found nor constructed, then the agreement stipulates that this airport here, that we are standing on, must remain unchanged, both operationally and in terms of safety. And it would not, according to the analysis of Isavia and their consultants, if this construction in Skerjafjörður begins,” Sigurður Ingi stated. The development in question would involve not only building next to the airport, but on a section of the current airport lot.

1,200 apartments

The proposal for the residential development in Skerjafjörður was first approved in 2018 and is one of the areas targeted by the City of Reykjavík’s 2010-2030 municipal plan. City authorities have stated that the development “will not impair the current operations nor the utilisation of Reykjavík Airport.”

The location of the airport has been a hot topic for years: its supporters argue that moving it out of the city centre would negatively impact countryside residents and complicate emergency flights to the National Hospital, while its detractors argue that relocating the airport would free up much-needed space for housing in the city centre. A decision has in fact been made to move the City Airport, but a suitable alternate location is yet to be found.

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.

Over a Thousand New Apartments to be Built Near Rekjavík Airport

Reykjavík City Council has approved a proposal for 1,200 new residential apartments to be built next to the Reykjavík Airport, Kjarninn reports.

The neighborhood of Nýi Skerjafjörður is bounded by Skeljanes road to the west and by the Reykjavík Airport’s security areas to the north and east. The Skerjafjörður coastline lies at the southern end of the neighborhood. This area was one of a number of districts targeted for development in the city’s 2010 – 2030 Municipal Plan (link in English).

The proposal also lays out plans for transportation links with Kársnes í Kópavogur, with bridges built for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation. It is also expected that new schools, shops, and services will be established around Nýi Skerjafjörður, although the plans for these will be announced in the future.