Good Old Days? Fare Wars Evoke Memories of Icelandair's Early Years

Jun 05, 2000, 01:00 ET from ICELANDAIR

    COLUMBIA, Md., June 5 /PRNewswire/ -- During the dog days of summer, when
 traffic across the North Atlantic is at its peak and airlines battle for
 business, recently reviewed stories of Icelandair's early years cause one to
 pause.  The airline once known as the "hippie airline," reflecting the age of
 its 1970s-era passengers, is now one of the most efficiently operated airlines
 in the industry because of its centrally located "hub" in Iceland, with
 "spokes" on both sides of the Atlantic.
     Evening flights from Icelandair's North American gateways in Halifax,
 Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, Baltimore/Washington and Orlando
 arrive in Iceland around 6am local time next morning and connect to the most
 popular destinations in Scandinavia, the UK and Continental Europe, usually
 within 90 minutes of arrival.  Same thing on the return: flights depart Europe
 early afternoon, arrive Iceland mid-afternoon and connect within 90 minutes to
 North America ... where it happens all over again.
     But it wasn't always so.
     In 1952, the US Civil Aeronautics Board approved the airline's operation
 between New York and Europe via Iceland.  Then known as Loftleidir Icelandic,
 the airline purchased a DC-4 Skymaster and flew the "Great Circle" route
 across the North Atlantic.  The long-haul aircraft were low overhead, allowing
 the airline to charge lower fares on their transatlantic routes, thus gaining
 a reputation for value fares.
     The value remains, but the Boeing 757 fleet is new and the route network
 is definitely improved.  Imagine telling today's passenger their round-trip
 itinerary to Sweden will be: New York-Gander-Reykjavik-Hamburg-Copenhagen-
 Gothenburg-Stavanger-Gander-New York!