This year for our vacation we travelled to Norway, part of our trek through the nordic countries. The first part of this trip had us flying from Toronto to Oslo via Reykjavik with IcelandAir. We have flown with IcelandAir before, and the service is good. The flight itself is a bit longer than a direct flight, due to the brief layover at IcelandAir’s hub at Keflavik Airport. From the west coast of North America, the flights to Europe are actually shorter due to flying over Canada and Greenland. The planes have good legroom, and the only slight disadvantage for an international flight is the lack of food service (which isn’t so bad because of improved food service in most airports).
Boarding from the rear of the aircraft at Keflavik – a rare experience these days.
The real problem is Keflavik Airport. If you are staying in Iceland, this will be less of an issue, however connecting to a destination in Europe is made onerous by the airport. Why? For a number of reasons. Our flight landed in Reykjavik at 1am. Even at that time there were not enough airbridges for the aircraft, so our aircraft was parked by the terminal and we walked in via the tarmac. The terminal was packed with people though which isn’t that terrible, but if the airport is that crowded at 1am in the morning, then there are obviously issues. The core problem with the airport is the amount of transiting passengers, and the lack of space, i.e. the lack of washrooms, and the lack of seating. On a positive note, in an average airport you wouldn’t expect anything open at 1am, but there were a number of food outlets, and even duty-free shops open. There is also free wi-fi, and the food at the airport is good, and not as expensive as one would expect. To board the plane we had to take a bus out to the plane.
Crowds awaiting outgoing flights.
The cool thing about arriving at 1am is that this time of day (early am, August 11), Iceland has as nautical twilight, and no actual “night”, which is kind-of cool. During nautical twilight, the geometric center of the Sun’s disk is between 6 and 12 degrees below the horizon. If you want to experience 21 hours of daylight, then you have to visit Iceland around June 20th, near the peak of daylight.
On the way home from Norway, our plane arrived in Iceland mid-afternoon. It was even worse. Our plane was again parked on the tarmac, and we took a bus into the terminal. The terminal was packed like a sardine can. Not surprising considering this July the airport handled 1.1 million passengers, up 22% from July 2016. The problem is that disembarking and embarking a plane on the tarmac means that a 90-minute layover is effectively reduced to 20 minutes, because of the bus transit times. I would have liked to spend some more time in looking around in the duty-free, as they have a good range of Icelandic-made products, however we had to rush through to make it to the gate, so we could “board” 40 minutes before the flight departed.
Approaching Keflavik Airport, with Reykjavik in the distance, and Kleifarvatn in the middle, the largest lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula.
I realize these are obviously growing pains, however it does question whether we would transit through Keflavik again, and therefore whether or not I would fly IcelandicAir. The benefit of flying IcelandAir is the fact that you can do a layover in Reykjavik, and do some exploring of Iceland (see my previous posts on Iceland). Next on to Oslo…
P.S. A master plan for Keflavik Airport, “2015-2040” in 2015 forecasted 5.2 million passengers for 2017. The 2016 total was 6,821,358, and current trends are 35% up on 2016, putting the likely 2017 total to 9.2 million – the suggested capacity for 2040 was 9 million.