Icelandair cancels winter flights from Cleveland Hopkins airport

September 4, 2018

Icelandair cancels winter flights from Cleveland Hopkins airport

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Icelandair has abruptly canceled its late fall and winter flights from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, leaving Northeast Ohio travelers to Europe upset and confused.

The temporary hiatus comes just a month after the airport announced Icelandair would become the first airline in nearly 20 years to offer year-round service from Cleveland to Europe.

Egill Almar Agustsson, Icelandair’s director of network planning, said the change was made to keep Cleveland’s service strong and sustainable. “It did well this summer,” he said. “It’s exactly like we wanted it to be.”

But, he added: “We saw it probably wasn’t a good idea to fly those darkest couple of months.”

Service from Cleveland to Reykjavik will end on Nov. 2 and resume March 20, according to the carrier.

Agustsson said the decision was not related to the resignation last week of Icelandair CEO Bjorgolfur Johannson, amid reports that the carrier anticipated lower-than-expected passenger revenue and earnings for 2018.

News reports cited growing competition in the skies above Iceland as one of the reasons for the carrier’s lower-than-expected earnings. Icelandair and Wow Air, both based in Reykjavik, have been on growing sprees in the United States in recent years, adding a combined eight destinations last year alone. In addition, U.S. carriers, including United and American, have added flights from the U.S. to Iceland.

In Cleveland, both Icelandair and Wow Air started flying in May to Iceland, with connections to dozens of cities in Europe.

Wow Air is suspending service from Cleveland to Reykjavik in late October; it’s not clear when Wow will resume flights from Cleveland. Calls and emails to the airline have not been returned.

Icelandair spokesman Michael Raucheisen stressed that Icelandair is pleased with Cleveland’s performance. Load factors -- the percentage of seats that are full -- have been in the 80s, according to the carrier. “We will be back in March, and stronger than ever,” he said.

Agustsson added that several other North American Icelandair destinations, including Baltimore, Montreal and Portland, are transitioning to seasonal service this fall, as well.

Cleveland traveler John Brickel is among those who aren’t pleased with the last-minute change. He and his wife are scheduled to fly to Iceland for a much-needed vacation in mid-November. “The Northern Lights are on my bucket list,” he said.

Brickel learned Monday that Icelandair had rebooked him and his wife on flights through Boston and Minneapolis, nearly doubling his travel time.

“At this point, do I even want to bother going?” he questioned, though he has hotels and tour excursions already reserved.

Agustsson said he hopes Cleveland travelers will stick with the carrier. The intent, he said, is to make Cleveland-to-Reykjavik a year-round flight. “You build a base, you build awareness,” he said. “And then throughout the next year and years, you push it into the winter until we can make it a year-round route.”

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