Which airlines fly to Iceland? Where can you find cheap flights to Iceland? Are you looking for flights to Reykjavík? Do you need a visa to come to Iceland? Read on to find out all you need to know about flying to Iceland in 2020.
Photo from Wikimedia. Creative Commons, by Simon Law. No edits made.
Finding cheap and direct flights to and from Iceland has never been easier, with more airlines offering more routes for more competitive prices.
In 1996, only 200,000 foreign visitors arrived on Iceland’s volcanic shores. Fourteen years later, that number had but doubled to a measly 400,000. And yet it was in that year, 2010, following the violent eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano, that the tide of Iceland’s tourism industry changed dramatically.
With European air travel interrupted for seven days, a meteoric rise in outside interest toward Iceland quickly ensued; Where is Iceland? Is Iceland a country? What is it all about? How many volcanoes are there in Iceland? And how does one even pronounce Ey-jaf-jalla-jök-ull?
Questions such as these have led to Iceland’s modern, tourist-oriented culture, a young and booming business that predicts 2019 will see a staggering 2.5 million new arrivals to the country.
This trend was not always expected, however. Still reeling from the consequences of the 2008 financial crash, many Icelanders suspected that the country would go bankrupt. And yet, thanks to the reactionary collaboration between government agencies, public relations groups, and the country’s tourism board, Iceland has experienced a substantial rise in visitor numbers every year since 2010.
Take 2016 as a prize example. 2016 was the year, after all, when more American visitors flew into the country than the entire population of Iceland itself; the country saw a 40% increase in international visitors overall.
2016 was the year when tourism was seen to be worth more than the fishing and aluminum industries combined, two of Iceland’s major profit sources. And, overwhelmingly, 2016 was the year that 92% of all travelers to Iceland came simply for the pleasure and privilege of being here.
If you are looking to explore this mystic, thrilling, and breathtakingly unique country, all evidence points that you are in good company. And yet, given Iceland’s central position between North America and mainland Europe, a rapid increase in routes to get here has made the booking process surprisingly complicated. This reality is twofold if one is trying to secure a particularly cut-price deal.
The idea behind this article is to make the practicalities of traveling to Iceland as simple as possible, from where to book your flights to how to get back and forth from Keflavik International Airport without hassle.
To find cheap flights to Iceland, it is always best to first use a flight comparison website, by far the most modern and simplest method for booking. There are multiple flight comparison sites online, and before booking anything, the majority of travelers will first trawl through their options to catch the best deals and prices early. There are over twenty-five airlines flying to Iceland, with more airlines and planned routes being added over the upcoming years.
Out of these flight comparison sites, Skyscanner is, by and large, the most popular worldwide. Skyscanner can be accessed in over 30 different languages and boasts a user base of 60 million people per month, setting in stone its dominance over the flight comparison market.
Completely free to use, Skyscanner relies on unique technology to connect people directly to the travel industry, sifting through the various deals and powering over 1,200 related businesses. The company has been operating since 2003 and now has a staff of 900 people, with offices as far-reaching as Barcelona, Glasgow, Singapore, and Miami. As far as travel service sites go, Skyscanner is, truly, a global giant.
We would also like to recommend our friends at DoHop. DoHop is an authentically Icelandic flight comparison website, founded in Reykjavík in 2004. Unlike Skyscanner, DoHop utilizes its own algorithms to find you the best deal; by scouring through every possible airport and available route, the company will collate different flights to ensure the best price. In this sense, DoHop’s advantage does not lie in finding direct flights, but instead in securing the best deal, the perfect choice for young travelers who wish to book and plan their own itineraries.
Another option entirely is to use the flight comparison site, Fare Compare. Founded in 2004, this travel service provider aims to instill an air of confidence in its users when they purchase their flights, ensuring the customer always leaves satisfied. One particularly useful aspect of this site is the detailed and relevant information pages provided on each prospective destination.
Another alternative is the site, Kiwi.com, a flight comparison site whose dazzling and interactive flight map makes analyzing different flight options as simple as taking a walk in the park! Despite being named after New Zealand's winged mascot, Kiwi.com is, in fact, a Czech travel operator, originally opening for business in 2011 as Skypicker.com. Today it is one of the top 5 sellers of airline tickets in Europe.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, photo by Antony-22. No edits made.
Despite a number of other airports sometimes hosting international flights—such as in the summer of 2016 when flights connected directly from London to Egilsstaðir in east Iceland—it is at Keflavík where the vast majority of travelers will pass through.
Keflavík Airport was originally opened in 1943, having been constructed by the US Military during the Second World War. Back then, the airstrip was known as Meeks Field, in remembrance of George Meeks, a young US airman who died there. After the war, the airport was returned to Icelandic control and renamed Keflavík after the nearby town.
As soon as 1951, however, the Americans returned to the base as part of the US-Icelandic Defense Agreement. Whilst one side of the argument felt this presence was a necessary deterrent to the Soviet Union; many Icelanders were terribly unhappy to have their country sold in the name of a potentially atomic conflict. This dispute would rage on for the decades to come, eventually concluding with the airport's reinstatement as a non-military airstrip.
Navigating the airport today is simple, given the fact, there is only one terminal, Flugstöð Leifs Eiríkssonar, named after Leif Erickson, the first European to visit North America. It is somewhat ironic that it is Leif's namesake that now plays host to the growing stream of overseas visitors we see every year.
As for utilities and services, the airport boasts all to be expected from a modern terminal; there are phone charging stations, food, and refreshments, free unlimited WiFi in the airport waiting area, as well as showers, family rooms, and restrooms dispersed throughout.
There are free strollers if you are traveling with children, as well as a children’s play area. Naturally, there are baggage carriers and wheelchairs readily available. And for those who can’t help but suck on the old coffin-tack, the airport has dedicated smoking areas readily available.
On the upper floor of the main building, one will find a large variety of duty-free shops offering a range of souvenirs, traditional duty-free items, and entertainment, as well as food kiosks. It is recommended that you stock up on alcohol whilst at the duty-free (if you enjoy the tipple, that is), as the prices at the airport are far more reasonable than in the state-run liquor store, Vínbúðin.
Despite the enormous increase in passenger numbers, Keflavík airport has consistently managed to keep waiting times down to a minimum; in June 2017, 89% of passengers had to wait to check-in for less than five minutes, whilst 98% of passengers had to wait for less than ten minutes. This is a staggering achievement, given that June is the third biggest month for arrivals in Iceland.
Keflavík airport is also consistently on the list of the 100 best airports in the world, at number 98 in 2017, dropping down from being number 72 in 2016.
First-time travelers to Iceland are sometimes taken aback to find Keflavík Airport is a forty-minute drive from downtown Reykjavík. Fear not, however, as there are plenty of ways to make the transfer.
The first and most obvious answer is to rent a vehicle from one of the many rental agencies at the airport or through the largest marketplace of car rentals in Iceland. These include Budget Car & Van Rental, Hertz Iceland, Avis Car Rental, Europcar Iceland, and many more. Renting a car in Iceland is recommended for a number of reasons, most important of which is that Iceland is a large country with attractions dispersed throughout.
By using your own vehicle, you can maximize, budget, and organize your holiday with more freedom. Your choice of vehicle should reflect the seasons and your plans, however. There is no good reason for taking a city car along the mountain roads in winter, for instance.
If you book a self-drive tour, your car (as well as your tours, itinerary, and accommodation) will be sorted out for you prior to arrival, removing all the stress of meticulously planning a holiday.
One can also avoid the hassles associated with large tour groups and scheduled buses, meaning it's entirely up to you how long you want to stay at certain attractions.
If you are planning to rely on transport other than your own, there are a number of bus transfers available from the airport. Tickets can either be bought at the kiosks in the arrivals’ lounge or online beforehand (doing so prior to arrival is sure to save you precious holiday time). These airport shuttles travel between city hotels and the airport, often with one change at the central bus terminal.
If you book a vacation package, your bus transfers will be sorted for you, as, like with the self-drives, the details of your holiday will be planned out prior to your arrival.
In 2020, construction will begin on a €758 million (approx. ISK 100 billion) rail line between Keflavík Airport and Reykjavík; the service will run every fifteen minutes, with the capacity to transport 2400 passengers per hour. The line will be 49 km (of which 14 km will be underground) and be named “Lava Express” after the dried lava plateau of Reykjanes Peninsula.
Given the expected visitor numbers, investors are now finally accepting the need for new transport options to and from the city. Tickets are expected to cost €26 (approx. ISK 3,300), comparable to other airport trains across the world.
Whilst discussing the journey between the airport and the city, it would be remiss not to mention the world-famous Blue Lagoon. Most travelers to Iceland visit these revitalizing waters either on their day of arrival, just before heading into the city, or on their day of departure, just a few hours before their flight.
The Blue Lagoon is a roughly fifteen minutes drive from Keflavík Airport and half an hour from Reykjavík. You can organize bus transfers to include a stop here.
Reykjavik Airport is almost smack down in the center of the city but is not used for international flights. Instead, it is the primary domestic airport in Iceland. The airport has shorter runways than Keflavík International Airport—three in total—meaning the airport is utilized for internal flights within Iceland and flights to neighboring Greenland. The airport was constructed in 1940 by the British Army.
Photo by Ursula Drake
The future of Reykjavík Airport is heatedly debated in Iceland; the airport sits in the western part of the city on highly valuable land. Opponents to the airport’s current location argue against its sound pollution, whilst proponents value its contribution to the country’s domestic service.
Currently, there are three propositions as to the airport’s future:
Iceland is conveniently located in between North America and mainland Europe and is the perfect stopover if you are flying either way across the pi.
How long does it take to get to Iceland by plane, you wonder? That obviously depends on where you are flying from, but it's surprisingly short if you're flying from New York City, for example.
Below, you will find the approximate flight times from international major cities to Keflavík International Airport. Please be aware that these are reflective of the average flight times, though the connection/direct category is liable to change.
|City of departure||Flight Time||Connection/direct||Stops|
|New York||5h 40m||Direct||N/A|
|Los Angeles||9h 00m||Direct||N/A|
|San Francisco||9h 00m||Direct||N/A|
|Tel Aviv||8h 5m||Direct||Yes|
|Hong Kong||17h 50m||Connection||Yes|
If you are flying overnight from North America, please be aware that your flight arrival will be on the next day of your local departure time. Please double check your ticket before booking any car rentals or accommodation and if in any doubt, feel free to contact us with your booking number and flight itinerary.
Photo by Corgaasbeek
Keflavík International Airport is the main hub for Iceland’s largest airline, Icelandair. Icelandair is able to trace its history back to 1937 when the company—then known as Flugfélag Akureyrar—was just a small aircraft fleet stationed in Akureyri.
In October 1979, after decades of growth, the company adopted the ‘Icelandair’ monicker. Today, the company operates 18 gateways to North America and 26 gateways to mainland Europe, all the while boasting an excellent safety and service record.
The company follows strict environmental regulations in order to preserve and protect Icelandic nature. Icelandair is known to persuade passengers to plant new trees in order to offset their carbon footprint, targeting neutrality by also fuelling their ground crew with reusable energy sources.
There are over twenty-five airlines that fly to and from Iceland with gateways to over 90 major cities worldwide (subject to occasional changes). Below is an inclusive list where you will find which airlines fly to Iceland as well as all possible arrival and departure points.
Here's a list of all the airlines that fly to Iceland as of 2019. Note that many only offer flights seasonally:
Air Baltic, Air Berlin, Air Canada, Air Greenland, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Czech Airlines, Delta, Lufthansa, EasyJet, Edelweiss, Eurowings, Finnair, Iberia Express, Icelandair, KLM, Lufthansa, Norwegian, SAS, Transavia, Travel Service, Vueling, Wizz Air, S7, Luxair, and TUI Airways.
Iceland is increasingly popular among North Americans due to their shared proximity compared to other European nations, as as a stop-over point for travels across the Atlantic. The following airports offer direct flights to Keflavík:
Anchorage, Baltimore-Washington, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Edmonton, Halifax, Los Angeles, Miami Intl, Minneapolis, Montreal, New York JFK, New York Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Intl, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington-Dulles.
The number of cities with direct flights to Keflavík is not just of great benefit to Europeans; travelers from Asia, Australasia, and Africa also use them to connect with Iceland. Such flights depart from the following airports:
Aberdeen, Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Basel Mulhouse, Berlin Schönefeld, Berlin Tegel, Birmingham, Bremen, Bristol, Brussels, Budapest, Chania, Cologne Bonn, Cork, Dresden, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Friedrichshafen, Gdansk, Geneva, George Best Belfast City, Glasgow, Hamburg, Katowice, Kaunas, Las Palmas, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton, Lyon, Madrid, Manchester, Milan-Malpensa, Munich, Nurnberg, Palma, Paris CDG, Paris Orly, Prague, Riga, Stuttgart, Tenerife, Trieste, Vienna, Vilnius, Warsaw, Wroclaw and Zurich.
With Iceland being a Nordic nation, it is only natural that they have close ties with their cultural cousins. Many flights from Denmark, the Faroes, and even Greenland even connect to Iceland's domestic airports. The Nordic countries with direct flights are as follows:
Bergen, Billund, Copenhagen, Faroe Islands (Tórshavn), Gothenburg, Helsinki, Ilulissat, Kangerlussuaq, Kulusuk, Narsarsuaq, Nerlerit Innat, Nuuk, Oslo and Stockholm Arlanda.
Iceland has numerous airstrips and domestic airports that allow locals and visitors alike to reach far-off destinations in a fraction of the time it would take to drive. These ports are:
Please be aware that the prices of flights to Iceland will differ from season to season. Airlines offer one-way, return, and group fares, as well as a range of family packages. The most common points of departure to Iceland are Copenhagen, New York City, and London, therefore offering possibly the best prices from North America and Europe.
For further information on traveling to and from Iceland or for specific information on flight prices and durations, please contact your travel agent directly.
No matter your country of origin, you will obviously need an up-to-date passport to enter Iceland; for many, however, you will also need to have a visa. The only people who do not need to apply for one prior to arrival are those who are nationals of the European Economic Area, as since March 25th, 2001, Iceland has been a Schengen State (though it is not part of the EU).
Even so, passports of such travelers will need to be in-date for at least three months before their departure from Iceland.
If you are a national of a country outside the EEA, then you will need to:
The Directorate of Immigration in Iceland is in charge of all visas, and their website has a Frequently Asked Questions section to help with any queries. Other than tourism, it is possible to obtain visas for business, short-term studies; to attend political, sporting, cultural, or scientific events; for personal reasons, such as visiting family; and for official visits.
Except for in Beijing and Moscow, Icelandic embassies do not deal with visas themselves; this list shows which embassy or consulate will deal with your visa based on your country or city.
If you are a Chinese national, this article will prove a great resource in getting your visa as easy as possible.
Did you enjoy our article about Flights to Iceland? Who did you fly with, and do you have any recommendations on airlines? Any plans to return for the 2018/2019 seasons? Make sure to leave your thoughts and queries in the Facebook comment box below.