Icelandair launches flights to Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina
North Carolina is once again connected to Europe with the inauguration of Icelandair’s new route from Raleigh Durham International Airport. The Icelandic flag carrier will operate a four-week service to Reykjavík-Keflavík airport serving the capital and connections to Europe.
North Carolina’s airport is located in the Research Triangle, home to several top universities and a growing technology sector. The airport serves the state capital of Raleigh, which has a population of approximately two million and a catchment area of six million, making it the second busiest airport in the state, after Charlotte , a major hub for American Airlines.
A new international destination for the region.
The inaugural flight began with a press conference with Michael Landguth, President and CEO of Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU), who thanked the staff who helped make this itinerary possible. He specifically pointed to the airport’s new flight incentive program, which directly helped the North Carolina airport attract its first new international destination since the airport experienced a 96% decline in number of passengers at the start of the pandemic.
The 3,016 mile (4,854 km) route between Iceland and Raleigh Durham was flown on Icelandair’s 160-seat B737 MAX 8s. The plane can accommodate 16 people in business class (Saga class) and 144 in economy class. The flight is expected to take six hours and 45 minutes one way and six hours return. The flight will operate to the United States on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays and return as a red-eye flight, arriving in the Icelandic capital the following morning. The flight times are as follows:
- FI821, Keflavik to Raleigh Durham: 4:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- FI820, Raleigh Durham to Keflavik: 8:30pm-6:30am+1 next day
Passengers departing on the first service to Iceland were served a selection of local delicacies. Photo: Jonathan Hendry | single flight
The first flight was accompanied by a display of fresh snacks and local favorites from each country. Traditional Icelandic cakes were served alongside the classic local Cheerwine soda to event passengers.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 landed in the airline’s striking new livery. The newly redesigned look incorporates much larger text and is predominantly white and midnight blue to represent glaciers and the backdrop of the Northern Lights. The tail features a stripe in one of five colors that evoke the characteristics of Iceland. The aircraft on this maiden flight featured a green stripe to represent life even after the most difficult events.
New opportunities with the 737.
At the launch, Simple Flying had the chance to meet with Icelandair Group CEO, Bogi Nils Bogason, who stressed that the airline’s acquisition of the Boeing 737s was instrumental in the airline’s ability to launch this route. Bogason described the new aircraft as a “game changer” for the airline by enabling services to additional locations for connecting and point-to-point flights. The increased fuel economy and ability to fly with a smaller load factor has unlocked a variety of destinations not possible on the airline’s larger Boeing 757s.
The 737 MAXs are operating on a significant percentage of the Icelandic carrier’s routes to North America this summer, including 18, including Montreal. The airline currently has nine of these in its fleet, six of which are of the -8 variety and the other three are -9.
The flight will operate four times a week during the summer season. Photo: Jonathan Hendry | single flight
Iceland and beyond.
The nonstop flight to Iceland also allows travelers from North Carolina and southern Virginia to connect to more than 25 destinations in Europe via Iceland. Icelandair has long championed its “Layover in Iceland” program, which allows customers to add a stopover of up to seven days in Iceland before traveling to their final destination.
Icelandair has confirmed that it is not looking to launch other North American destinations this summer. However, the carrier is launching service to Nice on the French Riviera, Salzburg and Rome this year. All destinations that can additionally support connecting traffic from RDU, which has not yet resumed its European destinations of London on British Airways and Paris with Delta.
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