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Icelandair Integrates Domestic and International Airline Operations
Icelandair Group has announced the integration of its domestic airline Air Iceland Connect into the Icelandair brand from Tuesday 16 March. The single brand entity “will create a stronger and more streamlined airline with more options and improved customer service” said the chief executive officer of Icelandair Bogi Nils Bogason. The move is a positive strategy for the Icelandair group providing confidence for domestic travel and positioning the airline for the pending aviation recovery and return of passenger demand. Bogi Nils Bogason stated: “As our domestic flights become more visible through Icelandair’s booking engines, we hope to open more of Iceland to the world with easy connections to our network in Europe and North America while increasing the number of tourists within our domestic operations.”
Prior to the pandemic, Icelandair operated a robust network linking North America and Europe via its hub at Reykjavik’s Keflavik airport. In 2019 the international airline carried 4.4 million passengers and an additional 282,349 traveled domestically or regionally. However, in 2020 there was an 83% decrease in passengers as the tourist destination was hit hard by the worldwide collapse of passenger demand and travel restrictions. Figures for February show a 98% drop in passengers for the corresponding month last year as mandated quarantine upon arrival further deters travel.
Iceland is currently open only to passport holders and residents of the European Union and European Free Trade Association countries and selected third-party countries including the United Kingdom. However, testing and quarantine restrictions apply though there are certain exemptions including those with a vaccination certificate for CoVid-19 which meets government criteria.
The Icelandic government announced in January that the country will be lifting certain entry restrictions from 1 May in line with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control color-coding system (red, amber, green). ‘For arrivals from countries coded as red, the current arrangements will remain in place (2 tests upon arrival, with 5-6 days of quarantine between tests).’
‘For arrivals from countries coded as red, the current arrangements will remain in place (2 tests upon arrival, with 5-6 days of quarantine between tests). Passengers from orange and green countries will be allowed into Iceland with a negative COVID test performed before departure, and a single test upon arrival at the Icelandic border, with no quarantine or second test to follow. Recovered COVID patients and the vaccinated will remain exempt from testing.’
In further positive news for the airline, they have agreed on a sale and leaseback deal for two Boeing 767-300ER aircraft which will improve liquidity. The aircraft will be converted into freighters next spring to replace Icelandair Cargo’s two Boeing 757-200 freighters that are expected to exit the fleet in 2023 and 2024. Until the conversion takes place the 767’s will operate on the airline’s passenger network.
Speaking about the deal Bogi Nils Bogason said: “These (B767-300ER) aircraft carry around 50% more freight than our current two B757-200 freighters and fit very well into our current fleet and network. Our aim is to increase the capacity in our markets, as well as strengthen Iceland as a hub for cargo between continents in a similar way as our passenger hub that provides attractive connections between continents.“
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