Niceair (Akureyri) plans to begin scheduled operations as a virtual carrier on June 2, 2022, amid hopes that tourism demand will return to northern Iceland.

Managing Director Thorvaldur Lúðvík Sigurjónsson told the Fréttablaðið daily that the start-up will charter a single A319-100 from an undisclosed European carrier for an initial 5-6 flights per week from Akureyri to the UK, Denmark, and Spain.

Following a feasibility study, Niceair will target foreign tourists coming to northern Iceland, who have traditionally travelled onboard cruise ships. Sigurjónsson pointed out that the current downturn in the cruise market means that air transport could reclaim some of the market. At the same time, Niceair also sees a lot of demand for outbound travel. Currently, residents of northern Iceland have to travel to Reykjavik Keflavik for an international flight, which can add an extra day or two to their holidays. Direct flights from Akureyri would thus be very attractive. Sigurjónsson estimates that the local market numbers around 50,000 passengers, comparable to the Faroe Islands, served by Atlantic Airways (RC, Faroe Islands Vágar) via Faroe Islands Vágar.

"The flights will greatly strengthen the competitiveness of companies in the area that do international business. It is difficult for companies to do business abroad without flying. It is expensive for companies to have to send employees first to Keflavík and from there to the destination," Sigurjónsson added.

Niceair hopes to achieve a 55% load factor in the initial stage of its operations.

Currently, the only airlines serving Akureyri are Icelandair (FI, Reykjavik Keflavik) and Norlandair (FNA, Akureyri), with flights within Iceland and to Greenland, the ch-aviation schedules module shows. The airport is located over 400 kilometres by road from Reykjavik.

The start-up is backed by 17 private investors, including the country's largest fishing company, Samherij, and Norlandair. No shareholder owns more than an 8% stake. Sigurjónsson underlined that Niceair is well-funded and has enough capital to operate for one year without generating any profits.

Sigurjónsson did not respond to ch-aviation's request for comment. According to his LinkedIn profile, he remains the chief executive officer at Circle Air (Akureyri), a sightseeing and charter carrier with a fleet of GA8s.