Posted by: neilh10 | February 23, 2012

Domestic flights in Iceland. What you need to know

Many people travel to Iceland and get around the country using Air Iceland, the main domestic airline. Air Iceland fly from Reykjavik to the main towns of Isafjordur in the Westfjords, Akureyri in the north and Egillstadir in the east. They can also fly you via Akureyri to the island of Grimsey and the remote villages of Vopnafjordur and Thorshafn. 
Flying on Air Iceland is a great way to get around and not at all like flying anywhere else in the world. It feels a little bit like being on old luxury bus service. The views are magnificent and the service is excellent as well. Basically, I love travelling by plane in Iceland and, unless you are a particularly nervous flyer, I suggest you will as well.
Anyway, the reason I am writing this post is to forewarn you that, unless you plan things out carefully and in advance of your vacation, your decision to fly domestically in Iceland could have very expensive consequences.
The reason is that, in wintertime, the weather can often delay domestic flights. In the most extreme circumstances, these delays can run to days at a time. This is a frequent occurance on the flights in and out of Isafjordur in wintertime (and often reflected in popular culture, see for instance this film, December). The delays can become so bad that many locals will simply give up on the plane, and drive to Reykjavik – hiring a car if necessary. And, given the circumstances and high risk of delay, I suggest that guests to my apartmentin wintertime consider renting a 4×4 and do the same.

Irrespective of what season you are travelling, as a customer, I think you need to be aware of two important points about flying domestically in Iceland. Firstly, in the event that your flight is delayed or cancelled because of the weather, Air Iceland are under no obligation to provide you with any assistance, and this is reflected in their policies. As a traveller, this could have expensive implications: you could lose the accommodation you had planned (and paid) to stay in the following night (s), and you might need to find accommodation in the place you are stranded, and pay for that yourself. 

In the most extreme circumstances, it could well be the case that a delay on your domestic flight leads to you missing your onward, connecting international flight out of Iceland. Were this to be the case, Air Iceland are not under any obligation to provide you with any assistance – unless your international flights are on Icelandair, in which case you will be able to take a later flight at no extra charge. 
Book with Iceland Express, wow air, or easyJet however, and it will be considered a ‘lost ticket’. Your cheap flight to Iceland might turn out not to be so cheap!
The way around this situation is to check your travel insurance policy very carefully. The part of your insurance you need to check is the sections that deal with travel delay and missed departure. You need to check whether the relevant policies apply to domestic flights undertaken as part of your travel itinerary. In my experience, some insurers do cover this but many do not. You need to be very clear about this with your insurer, before you leave. 
I sent a draft of this article to Air Iceland, but they have not commented on the situation. My suggestion to the airline is that they include an option for travellers to purchase ‘delay and flight cancellation’ insurance, along with their domestic flight ticket. This would cover you beyond doubt in the event of flight delay or cancellation. 
I think this is an important issue, because it is in everyone’s interest that travellers have the best possible experience while on holiday in Iceland. If you do get stuck in Vopnafjordur or wherever else because of the weather, the last thing you want to add to your woes is a huge bill to enable you return home. 

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