What are the best airlines to fly to and from Iceland? Where can I locate inexpensive flights to Iceland? Where can I find the best Iceland flights?
Are you on the hunt for flights to and from the land of Fire and Ice? While Icelandair and WOW Air are the go-to staples of Icelandic air travel, there are a plethora of very solid options available for air travelers. Read on in Iceland in 8 Days’ Complete Guide to Iceland Flights and Airports 2019 for:
- Cheap Iceland Flights
- The best places to fly into Iceland
- Traveling from Keflavik International Airport to Reykjavik and other cities
- Location of the airport in Reykjavik
- How long it takes to fly to and from Iceland
- Comparing WOW Air and Icelandair
- Which airlines and airports fly to and from Iceland
- Pricing of flights to Iceland
Traveling by air for long distances is a matter of perspective. Some love it; others absolutely abhor it. Air travel preferences also are dependent on the airline, and individual’s flight experiences. Luckily, discovering inexpensive and direct, fast flights to and from Iceland is simple. More airlines are offering additional routes, with lowered pricing as competition grows. Iceland in 8 Days has the scoop.
Iceland’s Tourism by the Numbers
A few decades back, in 1997, less than 200 thousand foreigners visited Iceland for tourism purposes, enjoying wonders such as Dyrholaey and Dettifoss. By 2010, that number had grown to 400 thousand. This was the fastest percentage growth for tourism of any country in that timeframe.
Also in 2010, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in central Iceland erupted. This brought Iceland into the world’s limelight. Mainland Europe’s air traffic went dark for over a week due to the ash plumes. And the world became accustomed to hearing about Iceland’s volatile yet beautiful landscapes.
Images and videos of Iceland‘s splendor have caused a spike in tourism in the country in the past decade. Modern, technology-using individuals have flown in droves to this magical land. Predictions estimate a tourism load of 2.5 million people in 2019. Staggering when taking into account the 350,000-person population of Iceland.
Unanticipated Spikes in Tourism
This spike in tourism was not anticipated by Icelanders. Iceland was very much affected by the housing bubble burst of 2008. A good number of Icelanders assumed the expensive nation would bankrupt itself. Yet, in part to governmental collaboration with tourism boards, the opposite is true. Iceland’s tourism industry has skyrocketed, increasing each year since 2010.
In 2017, more Americans flew into Keflavik for adventure than Iceland’s population. Iceland experienced a 40 percent increase in international visitors as well. In this year, tourism surpassed both Iceland’s main profit sources: fishing and aluminum. Additionally, this was the year that 92 percent of travelers arrived for adventure.
Are you looking to explore the natural wonders that Iceland has to offer? If you are on a mission to visit this thrilling country, you are very much not alone. Iceland has a centralized position between both mainland Europe and North America. Also, explosions in popularity have caused an uptick in flights into the country. These flights have complicated the booking process, unfortunately. This goes double if you are on a mission to score the lowest price available.
The concept behind The Complete Guide to Iceland Flights and Airports 2019 is simple. We at Iceland in 8 Days try to keep things minimalist, without fluff. That’s why you aren’t bombarded with pop-ups as soon as you open the site, and that’s why none of our advertisements are animated. This guide will walk you through the best ways to get to and from Iceland with the least hassle, while ensuring you receive a reasonable amount of useful and pertinent information.
Cheap Iceland Flights
Locating inexpensive flights to Iceland is no simple task. It is always best to first check flight comparison websites. This is by far the simplest and most up-to-the-minute method for accurate booking. There are a large number of solid flight comparison websites online. Some of the most used are:
- Kayak: The strongest for lowest prices and ease of use
- Momondo: Strongest for multi-modal travel and mobile usage
- SkyScanner: Best for analytical comparisons
- Expedia: Strongest for quick filtering options
- Google Flights: Best for quick speeds and user experience
There are also “flight hacking” websites such as Skiplagged and The Flight Deal. Additionally, ITA Matrix is the “source”, where sites like Kayak and Google gather data.
Before booking, most travelers spend a good bit of time searching these sites. They compare options and try and catch strong deals and lower prices early on.
Airlines Flying to Iceland
Currently, there are about thirty airlines flying to Iceland. This number grows every year, and has for several years. Here are the airlines currently flying to and from Iceland:
[expand title=”Click to expand list of Iceland-flying airlines”]
- Air Baltic, based in Latvia
- Air Canada, based in Canada
- Air Greenland, based in Greenland
- Air Iceland, based right in Iceland
- Austrian Airlines, based in Austria
- British Airways, based in England
- Czech Airlines, based in the Czech Republic
- Delta Airlines, based in the United States
- Lufthansa, based in Germany
- EasyJet, based in London, UK
- Edelweiss, based in Switzerland
- Eurowings, based in Germany
- Finnair, based in Finland
- Germania, based in Germany
- Iberia Express, based in Spain
- Icelandair, based in Iceland
- Norwegian Air, based in Norway
- Primera Air, based in Norway
- Scandinavian Airlines System, based in Sweden
- Transavia, based in Denmark
- Travel Service Airlines, based in the Czech Republic
- Vueling Airlines, based in Spain
- Wizz Air, based in Hungary
- WOW Air, based in Iceland
SkyScanner Preference for Iceland Travel
Out of all sites offering flight price comparisons, SkyScanner is best for readers. It is accessible in over thirty languages. It also has a user base of well over 70 million users monthly. This statistic alone cements SkyScanner as the dominant global leader in flight comparisons.
100% free for all users, SkyScanner direct connects travelers with the industry. They pore over stacks of airfare deals to find the best possible combination for your needs. They also are the backbone behind well over 1500 related airfare price checkers.
SkyScanner has been operational since 2002, and currently runs a staff of 1,000 employees. Their offices are worldwide, including places like Barcelona, Miami, and even Reykjavik. Compared to other inexpensive flights search aggregators, SkyScanner is top of the line for Iceland flights.
DoHop Provides True Icelandic Flight Experiences
Additionally, there is a true Icelandic alternative to SkyScanner called DoHop. DoHop’s base of operations is right in Reykjavik, Iceland. Frosti Sigurjonsson started DoHop in early 2004 to solve a personal problem.
He was living on the coast of France at the time, and flight booking from and to Iceland was very complicated. To aid the ease of use, he developed a program that simplifies the process for Iceland flights. Compared to SkyScanner, DoHop uses in-house algorithms to locate the best possible deals. The site searches all airport and route combinations, looking for the best prices.
In this aspect, DoHop has an advantage not with direct flights, but with strongest deals. This is the ideal option for younger adventurers looking to plan their own itinerary.
Alternative Options: Kiwi and Fare Compare
Another option available for flight comparisons on flights to Iceland is Kiwi.com. This site is a flight comparison engine with an interactive flight map. This map makes analysis of flight options to Iceland as simple as possible. This site bases itself in the Czech Republic. It has been around since early 2011, and was first called SkyPicker, before renaming to Kiwi in 2014. It is currently one of the four largest airline ticket sellers in Europe.
As an alternative to Kiwi, DeHop, SkyScanner, and others, there is FareCompare. This is a flight comparison engine founded in 2003. Their main aim as a cheap flights finder is to drive confidence in their processes. They have a goal to always leave their customers satisfied. One of the most useful utilizations of FareCompare is their detailed information pages. These pages exist for each destination that may be on your itinerary.
The Best Places to Fly into Iceland
Iceland’s major airport is Keflavik International Airport. It is the largest airport in the country by far, and is located in Sandgerði, about 45 minutes from Reykjavik by car.
Throughout the past several years, Keflavik (KEF) was not always the only airport offering international flights in Iceland. A few years back, there was a direct connect flight started from Egilsstaðir (a medium size town in East Iceland) to London. However, Keflavik is where well over 98% of international travelers will arrive and depart from this magnificent country.
The Keflavik International Airport technically opened in 1943, in the midst of World War II. It was built by the United States military, and at the time was the Meeks Field airstrip. After World War II ended, Iceland retained control of the air strip, and renamed it Keflavik, after the closest town.
A few years later, in 1951, the US Military returned to Keflavik, stating the US-Iceland Defense Agreement. The United States believed this military presence to be a necessity to deter the Soviet Union. Iceland was overall very unhappy, though, that their country was being used in the crossfire of a potentially atomic dispute between two nuclear powers. After a few decades, Keflavik was once again returned to Iceland and deemed a non-military airport.
Getting around the Keflavik Airport
Properly navigating the Keflavik International Airport is simple and minimal, like most of the buildings in the country. There is only one single terminal, named after the Icelandic treasure Leif Erickson: Flugstöð Leifs Eiríkssonar. Here are maps of all four sections of the Keflavik International Airport for all of your Iceland flights needs:
Regarding airport utilities and services, the Keflavik Airport boasts all the amenities you would expect from your area’s large airport. Phone charging stations are abundant (both European style outlets and USB). There is plenty of food options and refreshment availabilities as well, including:
- Main Building – Second Floor: Joe and the Juice, Segafredo, Loksins Bar, Mathos (restaurant), and Nord (restaurant).
- Main Building – Arrivals and Departures: Joe and the Juice, 10-11 Supermarket, Ginger, Dunkin’ Donuts.
- South Building – First Floor: Mathos2 (restaurant), Loksins Bar, Joe and the Juice.
- South Building – Second Floor: Kvikk Café, Isey.
There is also free unlimited wireless internet throughout the waiting areas of the Keflavik International Airport. Additionally, there are plenty of showers, family based rooms, and plentiful restrooms scattered throughout both the main and south terminals. KEF, like most Icelandic things, makes traveler happiness a priority.
The Keflavik International Airport also offers free strollers for guest usage when traveling with children. Also available for children is a clean and tidy play area. As is the case with almost all major airports, there are ample wheelchairs and baggage carrying carts available for all guests to use. Smokers can also enjoy the dedicated smoking areas that are available at multiple spots in the Keflavik International Airport.
In the main terminal’s top floor, visitors to the largest airport in Iceland will experience a wide expanse of duty-free shops and retailers. These shops provide endless souvenirs, standard duty-free purchases, and several restaurants for guests, including Mathos and Nord.
Iceland in 8 Days very much recommends tourists to Iceland stock up on alcohol when at the duty free establishments in the airport versus throughout the country. While there are plenty of incredible bars spattered throughout the country, alcohol prices in Iceland are notoriously high. Also, the airport prices are incredibly reasonable compared to the nationally-established liquor store Vinbudin.
KEF: Efficiency and Effectiveness
Impressively, despite the massive increase in passenger traffic to and from Iceland over the past several years, the Keflavik International Airport manages to consistently maintain low wait times. This is especially impressive when compared with far larger airports with far more vast workforces and longevity.
In mid-2017, checking in wait times were under five minutes total for over 89 percent of all passengers traveling through the largest airport in Iceland. Additionally, checking in wait times were under ten minutes total for over 98 percent of all passengers. This achievement is mind-blowing, as summer and mid-year is the busiest time of year for Iceland travel.
Also, the Keflavik International Airport consistently is listed as one of the 100 best airports on earth by the World Airport Awards. There are also plenty of hotels near Keflavik.
Traveling from Keflavik International Airport to Reykjavik (and other cities)
Those traveling to Iceland for the first time can sometimes be surprised that traveling from the Keflavik Airport to downtown Reykjavik (where almost 70 percent of the Icelandic population resides) is a 40 to 45 minute drive.
Iceland Airport Travel Option 1: By Car
The gold standard for transportation to and from the Keflavik Airport is by renting a vehicle. There are numerous car rental agencies throughout the airport. Additionally, separated from the main airport terminal is a bank of large warehouse-looking buildings, each housing a car rental agency, making the options plentiful.
Car rental options inside the airport’s arrival and departure terminals are:
- Avis Rental Cars
- Budget Car Rental
- Bilaleiga Akureyrar (Holdur Car Rental)
- Europcar Iceland
- Hertz Iceland Rent-A-Car
Car rental options located outside of the main airport terminal, accessible by the free car rental shuttle bus.
[expand title=”Click to expand list of rental car companies outside of the KEF main terminal”]
- Ace Rent-A-Car
- Alamo Rental Car
- Atak Car Rental
- Enterprise Rental Car
- Fox Rent A Car
- Geysir Car Rental
- Go Iceland Car Rental
- Iceland Car Rental
- National Rent-A-Car
- Reykjavik Rent-A-Car
- Right Cars Rental
- Saga Car Rental
- Sixt Car Rentals
- Thrifty Car Rental
Renting a vehicle when traveling in Iceland is highly recommended for many reasons. The most important reason being that Iceland, while a “small island”, is massive enough and dispersed enough to need transportation to make your travel in this beautiful country worthwhile.
By utilizing their own rental vehicles, travelers are able to budget, organize, and maximize their trip and itinerary with a far greater degree of freedom than alternative transportation methods. The vehicle selection needs to be a proper reflection of the time of year and planned places of visitation. For example:
- If you are wanting to travel the Ring Road in the winter months, it is highly suggested to get a vehicle that not only is equipped with winter tires, but is also a 4×4.
- When you are wanting to travel in the summer months, and are looking to travel inwards from the Ring Road to places such as Haifoss or Landmannalaugar, it is also highly recommended to use a 4×4.
- If you are wanting to travel in the summer months, and are looking to stick to the main roads, a 4×4 is not truly necessary, and most companies have removed winter tires.
Additionally, travelers can avoid the problems and hassles inherent with larger tour groups and scheduled bus tours seen so frequently traveling the Southern coast of Iceland, to places like the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck and Dyrholaey. This leaves everything regarding timing of attractions and additions and removals from itineraries completely in control of the traveler, not a large group.
Iceland Airport Travel Option 2: Bus Transport or Taxi
If you still plan on traveling with a tour group, or relying on transportation options outside renting a vehicle, there are many bus transfers available from Keflavik to Reykjavik, The Blue Lagoon, and many other places.
It is worth noting that the Blue Lagoon is a 15 minute drive from the Keflavik Airport, and is commonly either one of the first stops for weary travelers after arriving in Iceland, or one of the last attractions before flying home from this beautiful country.
Tickets for these bus transfers can be purchased at the several kiosks available at the arrival lounge. They can also be bought online beforehand, allowing travelers to avoid any lines that may form at these kiosks when planes are landing and dispersing passengers. These shuttles travel between hotels in Reykjavik and the airport. This being the case, it is sometimes less expensive to rent a car for a one-way transfer from the airport to Reykjavik, especially when traveling in parties of one or two.
There are also several taxi services that run to and from KEF. These services include: A-Stöðin, Hreyfill Bæjarleiðir, BSR, Borgarbílastöðin, City Taxi, and Leigubílastöðin Taxi Service.
Iceland Airport Travel Option 3: Rail Travel (Coming Soon)
In the year 2020, the Icelandic government will begin the construction of a rail line between the Keflavik Airport and Reykjavik. This line, which is estimated at a cost of close to $1 billion (or 100 billion ISK) will run trains at fifteen minute intervals, capable of transporting 2,400 passengers every hour.
This line will be 49 kilometers long, and 14 kilometers of the journey will take place underground (hence the astronomical cost). The rail line is going to be called the Lava Express, named after the lava plateau on the nearby Reykjanes Peninsula.
Give the anticipated tourism volume increases in the coming years, mixed with the explosion in popularity of Iceland as a travel destination, it’s no wonder why this large-scale investment was a necessity for transport. The expected cost of tickets on the Lava Express will be around 3,300 ISK, or $33. For the distance traveled and frequency of trains, this is highly affordable compared to other airport-based train systems around the world.
Location of the Airport in Reykjavik
The Reykjavik Airport exists! It is almost centrally located in the city itself (2 kilometers from the dead center of Reykjavik), but is not well known as it is not used for international flights to and from Iceland. Conversely, it is the primary domestic airport in Iceland. With shorter runways than the Keflavik Airport, and only three airstrips available, the airport is used mainly for flights within Iceland itself, smaller international charters, transatlantic ferries, private planes, and for occasional trips to nearby Greenland.
With difficulties distinguishing itself from Keflavik, the Reykjavik Airport is sometimes referred to as the following:
- Reykjavik City Airport
- The Domestic Airport of Reykjavik
- Reykjavik International Airport
Rest assured, all of these names are referring to the same property. Reykjavík Airport is the main hub of both Air Iceland Connect and Eagle Air. Of the airport’s three runways, two are currently active all-year round. The shortest runway, 06/24, is usually used only in winter, and takeoffs from 06 (northeast direction) are forbidden because of safety and noise. Reykjavík Airport is owned and operated by the state enterprise Isavia.
Air Iceland connects to the following cities:
Eagle Air connects to the following cities:
- Vestmannaeyjar (also known as The Westman Islands)
In addition to the above, Atlantic Airways flies to Vagar, and Myflug flies to Akureyri.
The Future of the Reykjavik Airport
Since the airport’s official opening in the 1940’s, the city of Reykjavik has exploded in growth. The city has grown around the airport itself, and now the airport is located in the western part of Reykjavik. The location of this airport has been considered highly inconvenient, due to noise and safety concerns. Additionally, the airport takes up a large amount of high-value real estate close to the downtown area of the city.
This centralized location is also, however, one of the reasons many argue to leave the airport where it is. The Reykjavik Airport, they argue, serves as a vital link between the largest city by far in Iceland, and the sparsely populated regions of the rest of the country. Much debate has occurred regarding the airport’s future. Most people fall into one of three opinions:
- Keep the airport where it currently is. This option would restrict the development of buildings on high market value land, while continuing to maintain domestic passenger service close to the center of Iceland’s capital city.
- Demolish the airport entirely and build a new airport elsewhere near Reykjavik. The downside to this option would be the enormous expense associated with not only demolishing an entire airport, but rebuilding an entire airport.
- Demolish the airport and route all air traffic to Keflavik instead. This option would hurt the domestic service (adding a minimum of an hour of travel and wait time), and reduce emergency access time to vital institutions in the capital such as hospitals
How long it takes to fly to and from Iceland
The beautiful country of Iceland is conveniently located between mainland Europe and North America. It is the ideal natural stopover when flying between Europe and Canada or the United States.
But how long does it take to fly to Iceland by plane? This is wholly dependent on the location from which you are flying to Keflavik. However, if you are flying to Iceland from, for example, New York City, you would be extremely surprised how short the flight would be.
Below is the typical flight times from major cities around the world to Keflavik International Airport. It is important to note that these flight times are reflective of typical average flight times. However, the connection and direct flights differ, and there are almost always time zone changes that take place.
[expand title=”Click to expand list of average flight times from major world cities”]
- New York City, New York: 5 hours 40 minutes
- London, England: 3 hours
- Copenhagen, Denmark: 3 hours 10 minutes
- Los Angeles, California: 9 hours
- San Francisco, California: 9 hours
- Chicago, Illinois: 6 hours 35 minutes
- Helsinki, Finland: 3 hours 30 minutes
- Paris, France: 3 hours 20 minutes
- Rome, Italy: 4 hours 30 minutes
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada: 6 hours
- Montreal, Canada: 5 hours 25 minutes
- Oslo, Norway: 2 hours 40 minutes
- Berlin, Germany: 3 hours 45 minutes
- Barcelona, Spain: 4 hours 30 minutes
- Zurich, Switzerland: 3 hours 40 minutes
- Stockholm, Sweden: 3 hours 10 minutes
- Boston, Massachusetts: 5 hours 40 minutes
- Miami, Florida: 8 hours 15 minutes
- Dublin, Ireland: 2 hours 45 minutes
- Tel Aviv, Israel: 8 hours 5 minutes
- Beijing, China (with connection): 13 hours 50 minutes
- Hong Kong (with connection): 17 hours 50 minutes
- Tokyo, Japan (with connection): 15 hours 50 minutes
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates (with connection): 11 hours
- Seoul, South Korea (with connection): 15 hours 30 minutes
Comparing WOW Air and Icelandair
The Keflavik Airport is the major hub for the two largest airlines centered around transportation to and from Iceland: Icelandair and WOW Air.
- Icelandair started in the 1930’s as Flugfélag Akureyrar, switching to Icelandair in the late 1970’s with consistent growth being experienced. In the current era, Icelandair runs through eighteen destinations in North America and twenty six to the mainlands of Europe. Through this, they have an excellent record for both customer satisfaction and traveler safety.
- WOW Air began far later, in 2011. It was created by Skuli Mogensen, a successful young financial investor and Iceland’s Businessman of the Year in both 2011 and 2016. WOW Air is the newest operational fleet operating in Iceland, also boasting the lowest carbon emissions. This makes it a drawing option for younger travelers and those who are hip with the lingo of environmental damages associated with traveling by air. WOW Air also recently added a bike-sharing concept to the streets of Reykjavik, revolutionizing citywide sightseeing.
Both of these companies follow very strict regulations for shrinking their environmental impact. These regulations service to protect and preserve the natural beauty of the Icelandic landscape.
Icelandair has been known to request their passengers plant trees to offset carbon footprints of commercial air travel. This targets a goal of carbon neutrality, as well as fueling ground crews on the tarmac with reusable energy for their equipment. Conversely, WOW Air has doubled and sometimes tripled donations of its passengers to the Icelandic Environmental Association Landvernd.
Which airlines and airports fly to and from Iceland
Currently, twenty four airlines fly to and from Iceland (mainly through Keflavik International Airport). These 24 airlines provide gateways to over 100 major cities around the world. Here is a list of all airports that currently fly to and from Iceland, in addition to regional arrival/departure terminals and points:
Airlines Flying to Iceland
Air Baltic, Air Canada, Air Greenland, Air Iceland, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Czech Airlines, Delta, Lufthansa, EasyJet, Edelweiss, Eurowings, Finnair, Germania, Iberia Express, Icelandair, Norwegian, Primera Air, SAS, Transavia, Travel Service, Vueling, Wizz Air, Wow Air, and Eagle Air and Air Iceland providing domestic air transportation from within Iceland’s borders. Earlier in this guide were links to all of the above airliners.
[expand title=”Click to expand list of airports in North America flying directly into Iceland”]
- Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport: Anchorage, Alaska
- Los Angeles
- Miami Intl
- New York JFK
- New York Newark
- San Francisco
- Tampa Intl
[expand title=”Click to expand list of airports in Mainland Europe flying directly into Iceland”]
- Basel Mulhouse
- Berlin Schönefeld
- Berlin Tegel
- Cologne Bonn
- George Best Belfast City
- Las Palmas
- London Gatwick
- Heathrow London
- London Luton
- Paris CDG
- Paris Orly
[expand title=”Click to expand list of airports in Scandinavia flying directly into Iceland”]
- Faroe Islands (Tórshavn)
- Nerlerit Innat
- Stockholm Arlanda
Domestic Iceland Airports
Akureyri, Bíldudalur, Egilsstaðir, Gjögur, Grímsey, Húsavík, Höfn í Hornafirði, Ísafjörður, Reykjavík, Vopnafjörður, Westman Islands, Þórshöfn.
See here for a map of domestic airports in Iceland.
Pricing of Flights to Iceland
It is important to be cautious, as prices of flights to and from Iceland will vary wildly from season to season. Also, many airlines will offer one-way, round-trip or group rates depending on the nature of your trip. The three most common points of departure to Keflavik International Airport, and thus Iceland, are:
- New York City
Therefore, these three airports will typically offer the strongest and most competitive pricing to Iceland from both North America and mainland Europe.