Icelandair Marks 70th Anniversary
COLUMBIA, Md., June 1 /PRNewswire/ -- The date was Thursday, June 3, 1937. In France, the Duke of Windsor married Mrs. Simpson, the woman for whom he'd abdicated the throne of England. In Iceland, a new airline was established. Known as Flugfelag Akureyrar, the airline became Icelandair and has served as the Nation's flag-carrier for seven decades. From its humble beginnings as a domestic carrier founded to ferry goods and people to remote locations around the island's coast, Icelandair's international route network now includes more than 20 cities in North America and Europe connecting via its hub in Reykjavik, Iceland. The story of Icelandair is as colorful as it is historic. On July 11, 1945, Icelandair initiated the first scheduled passenger flights in post-war Europe when a Catalina boat plane flew from Reykjavik, Iceland, to Largs Bay, Scotland. Three years later, Icelandair's brand new Skymaster aircraft made the airline's first transatlantic flight to Idlewild Airport on August 26, 1948. New Yorkers noted with interest that an aircraft from a country that bore such a cold name had arrived in the middle of a heat wave. For two years, the airline struggled to maintain its transatlantic route. The total population of Iceland was, theoretically, too small to sustain an international airline. But Icelanders were determined and had a long history of achieving the impossible. In 1950, a small group of men were stranded on a glacier in the Southeast corner of Iceland. Rescue seemed impossible until a US Air Force crew put skis on their plane and landed on the glacier; however, the plane was unable to get off the frozen ground. When all the men were rescued, the airplane was abandoned, left behind to become a snow-covered mound of white, obscured in the glacial terrain. But it was not forgotten. A team of 12 Icelanders climbed to the glacier, manually dug out the plane buried under a winter of snow, and dragged it to a newly-excavated runway, where they flew it off the mountain and landed safely in Reykjavik. The sale of that aircraft enabled Icelandair to begin regularly scheduled transatlantic service. By 1952, Icelandair was well on the way to becoming a popular, low-cost carrier. With a flight path on the Great Circle route across the North Atlantic, the long-haul DC-4 Skymasters were low-overhead, allowing the airline to charge the lowest fares on transatlantic routes. From the late fifties through the seventies, with less competition on the North Atlantic, Icelandair was known for great fares, a reputation that has survived into the 21st century. During the sixties and seventies, Icelandair became a favorite choice of college students who were making their first trips abroad. Icelandair was dubbed "The Hippie Airline," a nickname that still provides a bit of nostalgia for today's travelers. In the early 90s, Icelandair developed its current hub and spoke network and now maintains an all-Boeing fleet of aircraft. Icelandair offers flights from Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada and from Boston, New York-JFK, Baltimore/Washington (BWI), Minneapolis/St. Paul and Orlando Sanford to destinations in Scandinavia (Copenhagen, Helsinki, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Oslo and Bergen); Great Britain (London, Manchester and Glasgow); and Continental Europe (Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Frankfurt, Madrid, Milan, Munich and Paris) via Reykjavik, Iceland. Some destinations are seasonal. Additional information is available from Travel Agents or Icelandair at (800) 223 5500 or online at www.icelandair.com.
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