Icelandair Launches Flights To North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham Airport

North Carolina is once again connected to Europe as Icelandair inaugurates its new route from Raleigh Durham International Airport. The Icelandic flag carrier will fly a four-weekly service to Reykjavík–Keflavík Airport serving the capital and onward connections to Europe.

The North Carolina airport is situated in the research “Triangle,” which is host to several prominent universities and a budding technology sector. The airport serves the state capital of Raleigh, which has a population of about two million and a catchment area of ​​six million, making it the second-busiest airport in the state, following Charlotte, a major hub for American Airlines.

A new international destination for the region.

The inaugural flight began with a press conference featuring Michael Landguth, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU), who thanked the staff who helped make this route happen. He specifically highlighted the airport’s new flight incentive scheme, which directly enabled the North Carolina airport to attract its first new international destination since the airport saw a 96% drop in passengers at the beginning of the pandemic.

The 3,016-mile (4,854km) route from Iceland to Raleigh Durham was undertaken on Icelandair’s 160-seat B737 MAX 8s. The aircraft seats 16 in business class (Saga Class) and 144 in economy class. The flight is scheduled to take six hours and 45 minutes out and six hours back. The flight will operate to the US on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays and return as a red-eye flight, arriving at the Icelandic capital the following morning. Flight times are as follows:

  • FI821, Keflavik to Raleigh Durham: 16:45-19:30
  • FI820, Raleigh Durham to Keflavik: 20:30-06:30+1 the following day

Passengers departing on the first service to Iceland were served a selection of local specialties. Photo: Jonathan Hendry | Simple Flying

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 soda Cheerwine to passengers at the event.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 lands in the airline’s striking new livery. The recently redesigned look incorporates significantly larger text and is primarily white and midnight blue to represent glaciers and the backdrop of the northern lights. The tail features a strip in one of five colors that invoke features of Iceland. The aircraft on this inaugural flight featured a green stripe to represent life even after the harshest of events.

New opportunities with the 737.

Simple Flying had the chance to catch up with Icelandair group CEO Bogi Nils Bogason at the launch, who highlighted the airline’s acquisition of the Boeing 737s as instrumental in the airline’s ability to launch this route. Bogason described the new aircraft as a “gamechanger” 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 unlocked a variety of destinations not feasible on the airline’s larger Boeing 757s.

The 737 MAXs operate on a significant percentage of the Icelandic carrier’s routes to North America this summer, of which it has 18, including Montreal. The airline currently has nine of the type in its fleet, six of which are the -8 variety, and the remaining three are -9s.

The flight will operate four times a week for the summer season. Photo: Jonathan Hendry | Simple Flying

Iceland and beyond.

The nonstop flight to Iceland also enables North Carolina and southern Virginia travelers to connect onwards to over 25 destinations in Europe via Iceland. Icelandair has long championed its ‘Stopover in Iceland’ program, which allows customers to add a layover of up to seven days in Iceland before proceeding to their final destination.

Icelandair confirmed it is not looking to launch any other North American destinations this summer. However, the carrier is launching service to the Nice on the French Riviera, Salzburg, and Rome this year. All destinations that can further support connecting traffic from RDU, which has yet to resume its European destinations of London on British Airways and Paris with Delta.


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