Yesterday I wrote about Icelandair’s frustrating and confusing flight schedule, and I wanted to provide an update to that, as Icelandair has published the latest flight schedule for the rest of the month… and it’s bad news for Americans who were looking to visit.
Iceland may be off limits for Americans
Iceland was supposed to be one of the hottest travel destinations of the summer, thanks to the testing Iceland was supposed to do for arriving passengers. I know lots of Americans were planning on going, though that may no longer be a possibility.
Up until now the plan was for external European borders to open as of June 15, though it’s increasingly looking like that will no longer be the case, as governments look to push that timeline to July.
As Iceland’s government notes:
Iceland will continue to implement the travel restrictions imposed for the Schengen Area, which are currently due to remain in place until 15 June 2020. These restrictions may be extended until 1 July, but this remains to be decided by Schengen member states. While these restrictions are in place, foreign nationals, other than EU/EEA, EFTA or UK nationals, are generally not allowed to enter Iceland.
While no final decision has been published, it does look more likely than not that European border openings will be delayed, making Iceland off limits for most American tourists for the remainder of June.
How Icelandair has been scheduling flights
Airlines globally are in a tough position when it comes to scheduling flights, given how fluid the situation currently is:
- Airlines constantly have to adjust schedules to account for changing entry requirements for travel, which impact demand for flights
- Airlines also have to schedule flights in as economically viable of a way as possible; it’s hard for airlines to justify operating flights if they’re scheduled to be empty
- Icelandair is presumably working in conjunction with the government of Iceland when it comes to flight scheduling, given that Iceland is offering testing on arrival, but is initially limited to performing about 500 tests per day (which means flights need to be limited)
With that in mind, I know a lot of people have been frustrated and confused with Icelandair’s practice of selling flights:
Icelandair has been selling flights they have no plans to operate
Until last week, Icelandair was selling seats on near daily flights for most of June from around eight gateways in North America, including Boston, Chicago, Denver, New York, Newark, Seattle, Toronto, and Washington.
The thing is, we’ve known all along that the airline had no intention of operating most of those flights. Icelandair’s only transatlantic gateway for the time being is Boston, and for that matter it wasn’t even realistic for the airline to operate so many flights to North America, given the testing limitations.
Why has Icelandair been selling seats just a couple of weeks in advance on flights that they’re 100% sure they won’t operate?
Well, who knows, though I have one guess. Icelandair has been doing what they can to offer vouchers in the event of flight cancelations, so it’s almost like they’ve been trying to get people to book seats on flights that they knew they wouldn’t operate in order to generate revenue.
Icelandair publishes schedule for second half of June
Icelandair has been publishing their updated flight schedule just days in advance. For example, it’s only late last week that the airline published a flight schedule through June 14, so realistically you haven’t been able to know if your flight will operate further in advance than that.
This week Icelandair published the planned flight schedule between June 15 and June 30, which marks the beginning of Iceland offering testing on arrival for eligible passengers.
Based on the schedule, the airline will be operating to the following 11 destinations (frequencies listed represent total flights between June 15 and June 30):
- Amsterdam a total of 9x roundtrip
- Berlin a total of 6x roundtrip
- Boston a total of 4x roundtrip
- Copenhagen a total of 20x roundtrip
- Frankfurt a total of 7x roundtrip
- London a total of 4x roundtrip
- Munich a total of 7x roundtrip
- Oslo a total of 9x roundtrip
- Paris a total of 9x roundtrip
- Stockholm a total of 7x roundtrip
- Zurich a total of 7x roundtrip
Why will Icelandair maintain Boston flights?
While Icelandair published the initial schedule for June 15 to June 30 yesterday, it’s only today that the airline added Boston to the schedule. Previously the airline was going to operate daily flights between Boston and Keflavik, but that has now been replaced with 2x weekly flights.
Clearly Icelandair isn’t expecting Americans to be allowed to travel to Iceland for the remainder of June. Why is the airline still maintaining this route, then?
- Maintaining service to the US provides an important cargo link
- It’s still important to have some nonstop service between the US and Iceland, for official and emergency travel
- Some travelers are still eligible to take these flights, including those with many European passports (for example, I have a German passport, so I believe I’d still be eligible to go to Iceland — I’ll save whether or not I plan to for another post)
Icelandair has finally published an updated schedule for the rest of June. The airline will fly to 11 destinations, and in total the company’s service to the US will be limited to 2x weekly flights to Boston.
Clearly Icelandair isn’t expecting that Americans will be allowed to visit as of next week. Therefore the Boston flight is clearly intended primarily to maintain cargo links.