As an airline, Icelandair traces its roots back to 1937, when a fledgling airline, Flugfélag Akureyrar, was founded at Akureyri on the north coast of Iceland. After eight decades of operation, our history reflects the spirit of the Icelandic nation, its resourcefulness and innovation.
Starting commercial flights in a country of just 117,000 must have been no easy task, but on June 3, 1937, Icelanders took a bold step and set up a public company called Flugfélag Akureyrar. The man at the forefront of this initiative was Agnar Kofoed-Hansen, who later became Director-General of Civil Aviation in Iceland.
The new company bought a Waco seaplane and named it TF-ÖRN. The aircraft arrived in Iceland in spring 1938, and despite early difficulties, domestic flights began. In this image, Kristinn Jonsson, one of the company's employees, helps Agnar Kofoed-Hansen bring the mail ashore.
In March 1940, the company moved to Reykjavík and changed its name to Flugfélag Íslands. Two earlier companies had operated with this name for short periods in 1919-20 and 1928-31.
The Chairman of the new company was Bergur G. Gislason, and a newly qualified pilot, Örn O. Johnson, was appointed Managing Director. Johnson would later control Icelandic air transportation for many years.
The new company struggled during its first years. TF-ÖRN was badly damaged in 1941. With parts being hard to come by, they had to use parts from the old aircraft to build a new plane, but it crashed a year later, just a few days after its maiden flight. The company bought another aircraft in 1940 and named it Haförninn, but it was damaged in December 1943.
In spring 1942, Icelanders were delighted to acquire their first twin-engine aircraft. It was a conventional 8-seat Beechcraft D-18, and its arrival heralded the start of regularly scheduled flights. It flew from Reykjavík to Akureyri, Egilsstadir and Hornafjörður.
Haförninn was damaged beyond repair in a non-fatal crash at Hornafjörður on December 3rd, 1943. Until the summer of 1944, the Beechcraft was Flugfélag Íslands only aircraft.
The two aircraft companies, Flugfélag Íslands and Loftleidir, continued to add to their fleets in the following years. In summer 1944, Flugfélag Íslands operated two brand-new De Havilland Rapide land-based planes in addition to the Beechcraft.
Loftleidir equipped itself with a new Stinson and a Grumman Goose flying boat. Many additional aircraft were added to the Icelandic fleet in 1944.
The two companies were flying high, carrying passengers and freight to many destinations all around the country.
Herring was vitally important for many towns in northern Iceland during the 1940s. It was also a great boost for flyers. Contracts for herring searches from the air were a vital part of Loftleidir business in its early years.
In 1944, Alfred Elíasson and Kristinn Olsen lived in a tent beside Lake Miklavatn for the whole of the summer while flying in search of the shoals. They flew up to 300 hours on the lookout for the 'silver of the sea.' But at the end of the season, the Stinson aircraft was damaged while taking off from the water. The plane was put on a truck for transport to Reykjavík, but ran into telephone lines on the way and was seriously damaged.
Loftleidir's first aircraft never flew again. However, the men didn't give up, and the following summer the company had two aircraft, for herring searches and for passenger transport.
Conventional airplanes gradually replaced the flying boats in the late 1940s, increasing the need for public airports. Up until this time the planes had landed in fields or on simple gravel airstrips.
Reykjavík was the only place with a real airport. A British military unit had built it during World War II; they presented the airport to the people of Iceland in a ceremony on 6 July 1946.
The British were further involved in the development of Icelandic airports when they introduced a special method of building runways very quickly. They laid special steel runway plates on the ground and fixed them together. Reasonable landing facilities were quickly created in this manner all over Iceland.
"It looked like a large dance hall," said Alfred Eliasson, after his first view of a Douglas DC4 Skymaster, the plane that Loftleidir bought in 1947. This type of aircraft was often called "The Four" (Fjarkinn) in Iceland, and it was regularly used on international routes for the next decade.
The first Skymaster was named Hekla. Loftleidir, now known abroad as Loftleidir Icelandic, bought a second aircraft in 1948 and called it Geysir. In the same year, Flugfélag Íslands, or Icelandair, bought the first in its "Gullfaxi" series, also a Skymaster. These highly respected aircraft carried 46 passengers. They were Iceland's first serious long-haul aircraft.
As passenger numbers increased, their needs had to be tended to during their journey. Flight times were long, even on domestic routes, and basic rations were not good enough for people who had chosen a luxury mode of travel.
Sigríður Gunnlaugsdóttir was the first air hostess appointed by Icelandair in 1946, creating great interest. When the next vacancy was advertised, six months later, 50 women applied. However, it was a difficult job, especially on international flights, when two hostesses had to serve dozens of passengers in difficult circumstances for hours at a time.
The aircraft business was filled with glamor and air hostesses, as they were then known, were highly respected. Kristín Snæhólm was a leading figure among the ladies, and she had a long career that stretched into the 1980s.
In 1948, Loftleidir Icelandic received a permit to start scheduled flights between Iceland and the USA. The first flight left on August 25th that year, with much interest on both sides of the Atlantic. The flight permit was issued in accordance with an agreement made between the two countries in 1945.
There was no provision in the contract regarding fares, which became an important factor for Loftleidir Icelandic a few years later. Representatives from the Mayor of New York's office welcomed Geysir's crew and the Loftleidir Icelandic directors when the company's first flight arrived in America.
1952 was an eventful year in the story of Loftleidir Icelandic. Fierce competition between the Icelandic airline companies led to the government deciding to divide domestic fights between them in 1952. The Loftleidir board was not satisfied with this and withdrew all domestic services. At the same time, one of the company's Skymaster aircraft was badly damaged when it went off the runway in Italy, and the board decided to end flying operations and switch to ships.
A disagreement about the issue led to upheaval at a board meeting on October 15, 1953. A new board was appointed that subsequently guided the company through a very successful period, especially after the formation of a partnership with the Norwegian airline Braathen's SAFE. Loftleidir Icelandic applied itself to the North Atlantic routes and low fares, and just a few years later the company was a major force in passenger transport between Europe and America.
The "revolutionary board" included Kristján Guðlaugsson, Chairman, Alfred Elíasson, who later became Managing Director, Sigurður Helgason, Ólafur Bjarnason and Kristinn Olsen. For 20 years there was little change to the board until the two airlines merged in 1973.
Icelandair increased its domestic coverage when it became the only operator in the market. Scheduled flights were resumed to most of Loftleidir Icelandic's former destinations, and passenger numbers rose. Icelanders were quick to realise the value of this mode of travel instead of trundling along narrow, bumpy gravel roads.
Even children were sent to their summer jobs in the countryside by plane. But domestic operations remained something of a financial burden for the company, which relied on its international routes to keep the books balanced. Stockholm was added to the list of international destinations in 1955 and regular flights also took off for Copenhagen, London and Oslo.
As Loftleidir Icelandic's international operations began to blossom, the company decided not to join the International Air Transport Association, IATA. This was an interesting decision, as the association helped other airlines economize in some areas, but also decided fares on many routes.
The principality of Luxembourg was not bound by IATA decisions, which was very convenient for Loftleidir. No airlines flew scheduled flights to Luxembourg and the government there was very interested in a joint venture. The result was the introduction of passenger flights in 1955. Loftleidir Icelandic could offer low prices between Europe and America, and ticket sales increased rapidly. During its busiest years, the company flew 300,000 passengers to Luxembourg. From there, they travelled by rail or coach to towns and cities all across Europe.
But there was more behind this success. Loftleidir Icelandic's marketing staff were innovative, and introduced pioneering sales techniques. Among many new ideas, passengers could pay for their tickets over an extended period of up to two years. Doing business in this manner was unheard of at the time. They also offered guided tours and special packages for passengers stopping over in Iceland on their way across the Atlantic.
Up until this time, airline passengers had to put up with a great deal of discomfort. Airplanes took a long time to get from one country to the next for two reasons: They flew much slower than modern planes, and much lower, because of pressure differences.
Travel was sometimes physically difficult, even painful. It was almost impossible to fly above weather or winds. But all this changed when Icelandair bought two Vickers Viscount 759 turboprop airliners. This purchase generated a lot of interest; it was a big step for the Icelandic aviation industry.
They were the first Icelandic aircraft to be powered by turbines, and they came with a pressurised passenger space. This allowed them to fly at heights of up to 25,000 feet; the old Skymaster was restricted to 10,000 feet unless those on board used oxygen masks. The Viscounts also flew considerably faster than the Skymasters. Their arrival made it possible to fly to Europe and back in one day. The flying time to Copenhagen was cut by two hours, to four and a half hours. It was understandable that Icelanders celebrated acquiring these splendid aircraft.
Two years after Icelandair acquired its turboprop planes, Loftleidir Icelandic took a similar step when it updated its fleet and bought the first of five Cloudmaster DC-6B aircraft. In 1964, the company also bought two Canadair CL-44s that were named "Rolls Royce 400" after their engines. This was an interesting move - the planes were manufactured as cargo carriers.
They were "monsters", much larger than any other aircraft used by Icelanders to date. They were adapted to carry 160 passengers and could be elongated to carry 189 people. Loftleidir Icelandic purchased four of these planes and they were enormously successful for the company. They flew countless journeys until 1971.
"Blikfaxi" was the name given to the first aircraft specially designed for use in Iceland. It was a Fokker Friendship, and it arrived on May 14, 1965. Aircraft of this type served the Icelandic public for many years on domestic routes.
Icelandair was next to move forward, buying Iceland's first jet. It was a Boeing 727-100C, and it arrived in 1967. The jet was specially fitted for the airline, and the passenger cabin was decorated with typical Icelandic scenes. It was named "Gullfaxi," just like the company's previous flagships. The plane was a technological masterpiece; its passenger compartment could be made larger or smaller depending on how much freight had to be carried, making it an ideal choice for the company. However, the jet was not allowed to land at Reykjavík Airport, and Icelandair's international flights were moved to Keflavík.
The Icelandic airlines prospered on international markets during this time. Flights to Greenland were added to the growing list of routes, and the first charter flights to holiday destinations were booked. Sun-seeking Icelanders flew to the Canary Islands and Mallorca (Spain) in the winter, and other hotspots in summer.
Loftleidir Icelandic began its jet flights in an unusual manner in early 1969. Its low-fare permit from the US Government was tied to slow-flying aircraft, and this prevented a switch to faster jet planes. It advertised its service with the slogan "We are slower but we are lower," until it found a solution to its quandary in the Bahamas.
A small airline, Air Bahama, flew from the islands to Luxembourg and offered low fares and used jets. Loftleidir Icelandic took over the company's operation on March 5, 1969. A day later, Loftleidir Icelandic's first jet flight left the Bahamas for Luxembourg.
Icelandic aircraft were put to good use when war broke out in Biafra in west Africa in 1967-70. The war caused devastating human suffering, and Nordic Christian charities tried to help by sending food to starving people. Two of Loftleidir Icelandic's DC-6B aircraft were used.
In 1969 a special company, "Flughjálp" or "Aid by Air," was established to take over this work. Loftleidir Icelandic owned a 20% share of this company. Many Icelandic pilots took part in Biafra flights, including Thorsteinn E. Jónsson, who controlled flights for the last 16 months of the war.
Operations were becoming difficult for the Icelandic airlines. The competition was intense, especially in the Nordic countries, and in 1970 it became clear that some sort of government assistance was necessary to keep the industry aloft.
Various partnership and merger proposals were put forward, but getting the two airlines to meet proved difficult. They finally agreed to formal talks late in 1971. The discussions dragged on into the summer of the following year and nothing came from them. The matter now passed into the hands of the government.
A year after Loftleidir Icelandic acquired Air Bahama, it was able to extend its use of jets to all its original scheduled routes. A new contract with the USA allowed it to keep its low-fare structure while using the faster planes.
The company took three DC-8-63s on a lease-purchase plan in 1971 and then used jets on all its scheduled routes. The redundant Canadair "monsters" were put up for sale. No buyer emerged, and they were restored to operate in their original role as cargo carriers.
This idea led to the establishment of the Cargolux freight company, in partnership with the Swedish shipping company Salenia and Luxair. This enterprise quickly gained a strong foothold in the market, and became one of the largest cargo carriers in the world, providing jobs for many Icelanders over the years.
One of the new airline's first tasks was to coordinate its two predecessors' schedules. Summer timetables remained unchanged, but a joint winter schedule was announced in September. For a while, the aircraft continued to fly under the Loftleidir Icelandic and Icelandair banners, but their sales offices were soon combined.
Other consolidating moves took longer to implement. Flight crews were slow to unite. For a long time, they considered themselves to be either Loftleidir Icelandic staff or Icelandair staff. The pilots and their crews found the process especially difficult, and it wasn't until Flugleidir had been in operation for eight years that they finally reached a full agreement.
Late in 1972, the government decided to enforce the merger of Loftleidir Icelandic and Icelandair and a committee was appointed to oversee unification discussions. There was disagreement about some aspects of the merger but the companies' operations were now so uncertain that most people admitted the economic sense of the merger.
The two airlines reached agreement on April 11, 1973, and Flugleidir was established on July 20 of the same year. Örn O. Johnson and Alfred Elíasson were appointed to manage the new company, and Sigurður Helgason joined them a year later. Sigurður had been Managing Director of Loftleidir Icelandic in the USA.
Even after the merger of the two airlines, Flugleidir, the new company, remained in financial difficulties for some years. A reduction in international passengers did not help matters but charter flights helped keep the company in business. A growing number of Icelandic and foreign passengers wanted to fly to destinations not served by scheduled flights, especially groups of pilgrims. The timing of the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca was particularly convenient for Flugleidir; it took place in wintertime when planes and crews were unused.
At first, the airline transported baggage only, but over the next few years, it flew tens of thousands of pilgrims from Nigeria, Algeria and Indonesia to Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia. In addition, a strong partnership developed between Flugleidir and Air Algeria, which resulted in the Icelandic airline operating part of the African company's schedules. The pilgrim flights ended in 1984, when the religious festival was moved to Flugleidir's busy period. The partnership with Air Algeria continued until 1986.
Iceland's first wide-bodied jet, a DC-10 30, landed at Keflavík Airport on January 5, 1979. Icelandair negotiated a very favorable lease-purchase plan to acquire this 380-seat plane, but it turned out to be a nightmare transaction. The pilots' continuing dispute over new contract terms was at its height, and no agreement was reached about who would fly the new jet. Initially, American pilots were employed to fly it.
Matters took a turn for the worse when a jet of the same type crashed on takeoff from O'Hare Airport, Chicago, in June 1979. The engine had broken loose and all DC-10 aircraft were grounded until investigations were completed. The grounding was for a longer period in the USA, where Icelandair's plane was registered. It stood unused for eight months over the busiest period of the year. The jet had been scheduled to transport passengers over the North Atlantic that summer and Icelandair had to lease jets in order to meet its obligations. This placed a heavy financial burden on the company. Icelandair sold this wide-bodied jet in 1980, and it took several years before it acquired another plane of a comparable size.
The merger process was for the most part finished by the start of the 1980s. An economic recession brought a steep drop in passenger numbers; oil prices rose sharply, and competition became fierce. Icelandair needed to take preventive action; schedules were drastically cut and, unfortunately, staff were laid off - but even that was not enough.
The company asked the governments of Luxembourg and Iceland to subsidize its operation. Assistance was granted, but the Icelandic government imposed a range of requirements. Among them was the stipulation that the Treasury would acquire a 20% share in Icelandair and two seats on the company's Board of Directors. The financial scene calmed down a few years later and Icelandair repurchased the share from the State in 1985.
Icelandair acquired a majority holding in Eagle Air in 1978. This company had been established two years earlier, mainly chartering small planes to visiting tourists. After several setbacks it was in a precarious position, and Icelandair bought all the available shares, which gave them a 57.5% holding.
The two companies worked well together. However, one of the conditions of the government assistance package in 1980 was that Icelandair allowed Eagle Air staff to buy back the shares, and the staff association acquired a third of Icelandair's share, meaning that the parent company now owned 40%. A number of routes were also transferred to Eagle Air. This led to a political struggle in the Icelandic air traffic world.
The old airport buildings at Keflavík Airport were temporary structures, built in the middle of the military base in 1949. Their expected lifetime was a maximum of 20 years. However, they remained in service for much longer. The first steps towards separating military and civil flights were taken in 1970, but work on a new terminal didn't start until October 7, 1983.
The design of the new buildings took a long time; disputes about size and the participation of Americans further lengthened the process. In the meantime, passengers and crews had to put up with the old temporary sheds that were only recognizable as an airport because of the sign hanging on the side of one of the buildings.
In 1983, Icelandair celebrated its 10th anniversary in style at Reykjavík Airport. The airline announced its decision to resume naming its aircraft.
Its Boeing 727-200 TF-FLI became known by the name Frónfari, and the Fokker F27 TF-FLR was named Vorfari.
At this time, Icelandair was in no financial position to renew its fleet; most of its purchases were made at discount prices. The airline bought three DC-8-63 jets on good terms and sold them four years later for twice the price they paid. New aircraft were not on the shopping list, even though some of the airline's planes were 20 years old.
The carrier needed to find new ways to satisfy passengers' differing spending power and their demands for comfort. It decided to divide the cabin space to offer more comfortable facilities and service for a higher ticket price. This innovation, introduced on April 1, 1984, was dubbed Saga Class. At first, passengers in the new class had to sit in similar seats to those in economy class. In 1988, wider seats were installed for those paying the higher fares.
On June 3, 1987, Icelanders celebrated 50 years of commercial flights; half a century had passed since Flugfélag Akureyrar, one of the predecessors of Icelandair, came into being.
The first step in the renewal of the fleet was announced. At the anniversary board meeting, the Icelandair Managing Director signed an agreement with Boeing for the purchase of two 737-400 jets and options on two others.
This was the start of the recreation of the airline. The Icelandair board changed significantly, Sigurður Helgason (the older) became Chairman in 1984, and Sigurður Helgason (the younger) was appointed Managing Director. They had a lot of work to do but after years of economising, they began replacing almost everything the company owned: the aircraft, hangars, hotels, and rental cars.
This image is from the signing of the agreement with Boeing at the anniversary meeting. Borge Boeskov, the Boeing representative, stands before a gathering of the Icelandair managers.
The new air terminal finally opens, a splendid structure covering 15,000 sq ft. The opening celebration took place in front of 3000 people on April 15, 1987, when the building was named the Leifur Eiriksson Air Terminal. The original plan was for a larger building, but this was thought to be unnecessary. No one expected the number of passengers passing through the terminal to rise as much as it did; within a few years, the terminal was struggling to cope with the influx of passengers.
When the first shovel was sunk into the site of the foundations, 460,000 passengers arrived or departed from Keflavík Airport annually. In 2016, that figure surpassed 6 million. The building has been extended twice, and in 2016 Leifur Eiriksson Air Terminal covered 61,000 sq meters.
At this time, Icelandair moved into a new 4000 sq meter service centre. It housed the freight division, kitchens and engineering workshop. There was also a bonded warehouse for duty-free goods to be sold on international flights. The high-flying shop was named Saga Boutique.
A new terminal brought new possibilities. One of them allowed for changes to Icelandair's flight network. The company had operated two systems built on the old routes: to Europe, and between Luxembourg and the USA. A new system was introduced in 1987 that made Keflavík the hub of a network with many routes heading east and west.
The number of flights increased and schedules were coordinated so that passengers arriving from the USA early in the morning could continue on to European destinations a short while later. European flights arrived in the afternoon and continued on to America after. This system proved successful and it is still used by Icelandair today.
On May 6, 1989, the first of four new Boeing 737-400 aircraft arrived in Iceland. Among the passengers were Icelandair's top management, the Minister of Transport, and Boeing representatives. The plane landed to a ceremonious reception, and Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, President of Iceland, named the jet Aldís. All new planes would receive names ending in -dís, which means fairy. The others were called Eydís, Védís and Heiðdís.
The new aircraft had seats for 156 passengers, with 18-78 in Saga Class. There was considerably more legroom than in the old Boeing 727s.
The first Boeing 757-200 landed in Iceland in 1990, and was named Hafdís. There was seating for 189, with 22 spacious seats in Saga Class. The second aircraft of this type, Fanndís, arrived a month later. Svandís, the third in the series, was leased to Brittania Airlines and did not enter service with Icelandair until 1993.
The new fleet was especially economical, with 30-40% lower fuel costs. In addition, maintenance costs were much less and crews were smaller. All these factors contributed to the increased efficiency of the airline.
In 1995, a decision was taken to use only one type of aircraft on international routes. Contracts were signed with Boeing for the purchase of six of their 757 airliners, the largest single purchase in Icelandic aviation history.
The domestic fleet was also updated with four new Fokker 50 aircraft arriving on a lease-purchase deal. They replaced the older Fokkers, which were sold at a good price. The new planes arrived in 1992, landing at the main domestic airports: the first at Akureyri, the next at Egilsstaðir, then Ísafjörður and finally in the Westman Islands. When the last plane arrived, they all took off for Reykjavík, arriving together, in formation.
With the new Fokkers and three Boeing 757-200 aircraft, Icelandair now had 11 new airplanes. The whole fleet had been renewed in three years and it had become one of the youngest in the world.
While much of Icelandair's day-to-day business is carried out in Icelandic, flight crews and flight attendants use a very special vocabulary. It is a unique language, unintelligible outside the aviation industry. Handbooks and instruction manuals were written in English, and certain words were absorbed into the language used by Icelanders working in or around the airliners. A whole new vocabulary was constructed in Icelandic in 1993, but it never gained traction.
The original English words still prevail, molded and adapted for use in Icelandic sentences, resulting in a curious type of communication that is neither English nor Icelandic.
Icelandair opened a new maintenance centre at Keflavík Airport in 1993. Icelanders had been able to use facilities on the nearby military base since the arrival of the first jets. This arrangement was inconvenient and plans to improve the maintenance situation were made years earlier. At last, they came to fruition.
The hangar was gigantic - 13,500 sq feet. It was big enough to house four Boeing 757 or two Boeing 767 aircraft.
Icelandair acquired one of Iceland's largest travel agencies in 1996 as part of its new strategy to develop its tourist services. Introductions to Iceland had been an important part of the company's operations since Loftleidir had started offering stopover packages to transatlantic passengers in 1955. This marketing sector was gaining increasing importance and massive sums were injected into advertising. The network was expanded to draw passengers onto routes that passed through Iceland.
New destinations in North America were added, which helped in extending the tourist season. Icelandair began flying to Boston, Halifax and Minneapolis. These new markets brought hundreds of thousands of new customers and increased tourist interest in Iceland. In 1994, 180,000 tourists visited Iceland for long or short stays. Six years later, that figure had risen to 303,000. In 2015, 1.2 million tourists visited Iceland.
Substantial changes were made to domestic flights in the mid-1990s. The market was opened in 1997 and, up until then, the government applied a system of special licenses to control domestic commercial flights. Icelandair prepared for the changes by creating a new company, especially for domestic routes. Flugfélag Norðurlands and Icelandair's domestic carrier merged to form an independent Icelandair subsidiary. Flugfélag Íslands, the fourth company with that name, entered the market.
A price war on the most popular routes broke out after the market was opened, with prices dropping up to 40% while passenger numbers increased by only 20%. Having to run at a loss like this put some airlines out of business. In order to remain in operation, Flugfélag Íslands did all it could to improve efficiency. The workforce was reduced and tickets were no longer issued. Passengers gradually began booking their seats on the internet. These measures were effective: in 2002, the domestic carrier recorded a profit of $1.7 million.
Passenger numbers reached 400,000 in 2006. Their destinations were Akureyri, Egilsstaðir, Ísafjörður, the Westman Islands, the Faroe Islands and the Greenland towns of Kulusuk, Narsassuak and Nuuk, in addition to Reykjavík. Flights also operated from Akureyri to Grímsey, Þórshöfn and Vopnafjörður.
In 2007, the domestic fleet consisted of six Fokker 50s, two DASH 8-100s and one Twin Otter aircraft.
On Women's Rights Day, June 19, 1999, an Icelandic airliner was flown by an all-female crew for the first time. The captain was Geirthrudur Alfredsdóttir, assisted by Linda Gunnarsdóttir. The flight attendants were led by the captain's sister Katrin Alfredsdóttir, both daughters of the founder of Loftleidir, Alfred Eliasson.
Two years later, another notable flight took off with female pilots and male flight attendants - an interesting reversal of the traditional roles of airline crews. At that time, Icelandair employed 240 captains and pilots, of whom only eight were women.
Cargo flights have always played an important role in Icelandair operations. When the company was established in 1973, a special cargo division was created that has since grown year by year. Freight is carried in special cargo aircraft as well as in the holds of passenger aircraft.
At the beginning of the new millennium, the cargo division formed a new subsidiary to attend to the construction of a freight handling centre at Keflavík, which opened in 2001. In 2017, Icelandair Cargo operates two B757-200 cargo aircraft that fly between 50 destinations in Europe and North America.
When Icelandair transferred its charter operation to a special subsidiary in 2002, it decided to name the new company after its predecessor, Loftleidir Icelandic. The new subsidiary has developed rapidly since its formation, now offering a wide range of solutions for other carriers and tour companies.
The new company strengthened its position in Europe by acquiring a majority share in the Latvian charter company Latcharter Airlines in 2006. Loftleidir Icelandic charters its planes with or without crews or maintenance, for a range of uses, including round the world flights, when groups of people fly from city to city all around the globe in aeroplanes specially equipped for passenger comfort. in 2017, Loftleidir Icelandic now operates four B757-200 jets, two B767-300 and 1 737-700 anf two 737-800.
In celebration of its 30th anniversary, Icelandair set up a fund to give children with long-term illnesses or those living in special circumstances the chance to travel. The idea came from Peggy Helgason, who has worked for many years as a volunteer in the children's hospital in Reykjavík.
Every year, the fund allows at least 20 children and their families to take a dream trip. It is financed by Icelandair and the airline's passengers, who donate frequent flyer points or any currency in an envelope, on board, to the cause.
Icelandair Group was established in October 2005, a holding company with 10 subsidiaries operating air and tourism services. The largest of the group's operations is the international carrier Icelandair. Other companies in the group include Loftleidir Icelandic, Icelandair Cargo, Icelandair Ground Services, Vita, Flugfélag Íslands (now called Air Iceland Connect), Icelandair Hotels, Iceland Travel, and Fjárvakur.
In December 2006, Icelandair Group (ICEAIR) was registered as a public company on the Icelandic stock exchange.
Icelandair Group, a descendant of Flugfélag Akureyrar, celebrated 70 years of flying in the company's hangar at Akureyri Airport on June 3, 2007. To mark the occasion, the company presented the Aircraft Museum with a Stinson Reliant airplane, exactly like the aircraft that arrived in Iceland in 1944.
At this time, Icelandair Group is operating all around the world, embracing nine companies in the aviation and tourism sectors.
In 2008, Icelandair refurbished its fleet, installing new seats and a new in-flight entertainment system accessible through a touchscreen on the seatback in front of every passenger.
The company introduced three classes of service on board its aircraft, Economy, Economy Comfort, and Saga Class.
By 2011, Icelandair was operating regular, scheduled flights to more than 30 destinations in Europe and North America. At the time, it was the largest schedule in the company's history.
Over two million passengers fly Icelandair in 2012, a new record. Passenger number two million receives a special gift, two million Saga Points.
In 2013, flights start to three new destinations: Anchorage in the United States, St Petersburg in Russia, and Zurich in Switzerland.
Icelandair committed to adding up to 16 Boeing 737s to the fleet instead of 12. The aircraft are scheduled to enter the fleet in 2018. Two Boeing 757-200s are added and the fleet consisted of 18 aircraft in total.
#MyStopover is introduced, the first global campaign in the company's history, which highlights the Icelandair Stopover. Icelandair has offered this service to passengers since the early 1960s, passengers can stopover in Iceland on their way across the Atlantic at no additional airfare.
Flights to three new destinations commence: Edmonton and Vancouver, Canada and Geneva, Switzerland.
Three new Boeing 757-200s are added to the fleet, which now consists of 21 aircraft.
Passenger numbers grow by about 315,000 from the previous year.
Icelandair celebrates 70 years since the first international flight took off from Iceland, when a crew of four flew passengers to Largs Bay in Scotland in 1945.
Scheduled flights to two new destinations start; Portland, Oregon and Birmingham, UK. Additionally, Icelandair starts flying to Brussels all year round.
Passenger number 3 million boards in December and is awarded with a gift certificate.
A new record for the number of passengers carried in a single month is set, when 415,000 passengers fly Icelandair in July.
The fleet keeps growing, three Boeing 757-200 are added. The 757-200s continue to be the most common type of aircraft Icelandair operates, making up 21 out of a fleet of 24 aircraft.
A new, global marketing initiative was launched in early 2016. The Icelandair Stopover Buddy service allowed passengers who stopover in Iceland on their way across the Atlantic to ask for a travel buddy, who is also an Icelandair employee. The initiative was called "the best marketing gimmick of 2016" by The Daily Mail.
Three new destinations were added to the route network, giving passengers even more options: Chicago, Montreal and Aberdeen. Icelandair resumed service to Paris Orly International Airport in addition to flying to Charles de Gaulle.
With more destinations and more trips, Icelandair added a Boeing 767 wide-body jet to its fleet.
In the summer, Icelandair transported Iceland's men's national football team to their first-ever major tournament, when they participate in the European Championships in France. To the delight of the nation, the team finished in the top eight.
Icelandair revolutionized service on board by introducing a cashless cabin. Passengers are allowed to pay with all major cards, both debit and credit.
Icelandair became the first European airline to offer fleet-wide gate-to-gate Wi-Fi.
Two new destinations in the US were added to the route network: Philadelphia and Tampa. Flights to Cleveland and Dallas-Forth Worth are announced for 2018; they are joined by Berlin (from late 2017) and Dublin (from 2018).
In 2017, Icelandair celebrated 80 years in the air. In celebration of the airline's 80th anniversary, the company pioneered a new form of in-flight entertainment: the immersive on-board theatre production, ‘Ahead of Time.’ The plotline of the performance championed the airline’s history as pioneers of modern-day travel.
As an aviation pioneer, Icelandair continues to grow by adding new aircraft to its modern fleet, plus more destinations and popular amenities. Today, the company flies to 20 North American gateways and more than 25 cities in Europe. It´s projected that Icelandair will transport four million passengers in 2017.