As the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic worsens, Icelandair has signed an agreement with the Icelandic government to keep vital air routes between Europe and North America open. The agreement signed yesterday Monday, March 30th, will see the Icelandic national flag carrier operate flights to Boston in the United States and either Stockholm or London in Europe.
According to the Iceland Monitor, the island nation will connect to the rest of the world with two flights to America and two flights to Europe each week. In return for keeping the vital air routes open, the Icelandic government has promised to reimburse any losses the Reykjavík-based airline incurs for keeping its aircraft flying.
The Icelandic government will pay up to a set amount
While Icelandair has promised to operate six flights per week to the two destinations, the Alþingi (parliament of Iceland) says it will cover any financial losses for a period of three weeks.
The government’s promise does not come in the form of a blank check, but a maximum amount of ISK 100 million ($715,000). This money will become payable to Icelandair after the time frame is over, and the revenue calculated.
The flights are essential for Iceland
When speaking to Icelandic daily newspaper Morgunblaðið, the Iceland Monitor quotes the Minister of Transport and Local Government Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson as saying that keeping flights operating is essential for the country as a whole.
“Many countries and areas have closed their borders and airports … As a result, most airlines have stopped flying, and it is unclear whether Icelandair would continue flying without our talks with the company, our belief that doing so is important, and our willingness to cover certain costs to prevent them from incurring losses by continuing to fly.
“We’re doing this to ensure open borders. Among other things, we must ensure that Icelanders who are abroad can return home.”
Sigurður Ingi was eager to point out that while Iceland needed a link with the United States (Boston), flights to other destinations in North America were, for now at least, out of the question.
“We just think it’s important that the airline keeps these connections going. It’s important to get the state involved, even if only partially,” he stated. The amount that the government will contribute will be based on passenger numbers and revenue earned on each flight.
Iceland has over 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases
As borders close and countries declare emergency measures, Iceland has not escaped the COVID-19 crisis, despite being relatively isolated in the middle of the North Atlantic.
The first case of coronavirus in Iceland surfaced on February 28, 2020. Since then, the number of cases has gone up quite drastically, and as of March 30th, Iceland had reached a total of 1,086 confirmed cases.
By keeping flights to Europe and America still flying, Iceland is allowing Icelandic citizens stranded around the world a chance to get home via Boston or the chosen European destination.