There were few empty seats on Delta Airlines’ first scheduled flight to Iceland this year, which brought 130 – mostly vaccinated – passengers from New York to Keflavík yesterday morning. Iceland’s tourism leaders say the industry’s wheels are finally turning again. Travellers from the United States have been banned entry to Iceland throughout most of the pandemic, but as of April 6, those who are vaccinated or have COVID-19 antibodies have been permitted entry and do not have to quarantine upon arrival.
The Delta Airlines flight was the first scheduled flight from the United States in over a year, with the exception of Icelandair’s state-subsidized flights to Boston, RÚV reports. Delta is now operating daily flights between New York and Keflavík, and will begin flying from Boston and Minneapolis later this month. United Airlines will begin flying from New York in June and Chicago in July, while Air Canada plans to resume flights from Toronto in July. Icelandair currently has 11 US destinations on its roster for the coming months.
“Tourist Summer is Beginning”
“The wheels are somewhat starting to turn again,” stated Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, CEO of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association. “Now we see the impact of better and faster vaccination both here and in the countries around. And the interest from for example US travellers who have been vaccinated or have already had COVID-19 is significant. So I hope that now these are sort of the signs that the tourist summer is beginning.”
Jóhannes believes travellers from the US and UK will be the first to arrive, while those from mainland Europe, where vaccination has been proceeding slower, will come to Iceland later. Icelandair CEO Bogi Nils Bogason also stated the airline had seen an uptick in bookings from the US, with Europe and Canada lagging behind. “This is still a very challenging environment for airlines around the world and tourism companies, but very positive that things are somewhat starting up again,” Bogi stated.
Iceland a Safe Destination, Say Tourists
Strati Hvartos, a photographer from Los Angeles, was one of the passengers of Delta’s flight from New York yesterday. He arrived with his girlfriend Caroline Fiorito, and they plan to spend two weeks in Iceland. “I think we chose Iceland cause it seemed like the best place to go right now, after COVID,” Strati told Vísir reporters. “It seemed like one of the safer places to go, and also one of the least amount of tourists right now.”