For years, Icelandair has been the little airline that could. It's been on the leading edge of delivering no-frills bargain carrier service and at a time when many of its competitors have folded their wings for good, the company still prospers.

While it might be unusual for an airline to be based on an island nation that still has a population of less than 350,000, that's part of the secret of Icelandair. They've prided themselves to be as down-to-earth as an airline can get, especially based in a country where the community is everything.


Another secret is location, location, location. With Iceland based in the North Atlantic between North America and mainland Europe, the airline could easily establish a hub that can easily connect to destinations on both continents. It also helps that Iceland has itself become an ideal tourist attraction.

It's Been Around For 80 Years

After some 80 years in the aviation business, Icelandair is no slouch in getting passengers around the globe. Tourism journalists rave about the service and convenience, while the airline has been a central part of offering incentives to grow its market.

For openers, business class and economy fares are just as competitive as other airlines, which explains why at least four million travelers annually choose Icelandair.

But the big draw is the Icelandair Stopover, a program allowing fliers to include a free layover in Iceland for free as part of their trans-Atlantic journeys. A 24-hour stop enables passengers to take advantage of Iceland's surroundings and amenities such as a night on the town in Reykjavik or taking a dip in its geothermal Blue Lagoon. The plan certainly generated a lot of attention for the airline and country during the leadup to the 2018 World Cup when the stopover package included a visit with the national soccer team.

It's Revolutionized Iceland's Tourism Economy

The stayover incentive has certainly been a boon to Iceland's tourism industry. Although the program has been in place since the '60s, it hasn't been until the past few years that more and more visitors have been taking advantage of the package.

Part of that has to do fascination over the exotic attributes of Iceland, a volcanic island with hot springs galore and a Nordic culture on par with Viking folklore. Another factor is that Iceland seems to be a welcome alternative among travelers tired of the tourist congestion of more tropical destinations.

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According to statistics released by the Icelandic Tourist Board, international visits have quadrupled from 488,600 in 2010 to 2.2 million in 2017. The country's also been a draw among such celebs as Beyonce and Jay-Z. With the bulk of visitors arriving via air, the stayover program has been credited with making a huge difference in boosting tourism prospects.

It's Rated Among The World's Best Budget Airlines

Iceland may be a land unknown to many, but Icelandair isn't one for surprises that might be at the expense of a customer, according to one Thrifty Traveler reviewer. Her experience indicated no hassles with checking in and was impressed by attendants handing out bottles of water to boarding passengers. On top of that, cabin legroom was greater than on other carriers in her experience.

Those are factors that haven't gone unnoticed by Airline Ratings, the bible for ranking carriers internationally. Icelandair's ratings according to the adjudicator have been consistently positive, garnering full marks for safety and a 4.5 out of 7 product rating that takes into account check-in and baggage, cabin space, in-flight entertainment and food, and food and beverage.

It Could Wind Up Being A State-Owned Company

But despite Icelandair's reputation for service and affordable flights, the company is struggling with regulatory reactions to the Covid-19 pandemic. While several airlines have made adjustments to endure the coronavirus situation, Icelandair has had to lay off most of its workers.

The cancelation of international flights has hurt the company considerably and given that Iceland is only 64,000 square miles, there isn't much call for domestic flights to recoup a fraction of its losses.

The Iceland government has been mulling over providing financial support with even some officials hinting that it could buy the airline outright. Considering the positive impact the airline has had on the country's tourist industry, no doubt fans of Icelandair would welcome any avenue to keep it aloft.

NEXT: A Travel Guide To Iceland: 10 Things To Know While Planning Your Trip