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New direct flights by Icelandair may make it easier for Alaskans to visit Europe

Alaska Dispatch

Icelandair, an airline based in Iceland's capital city of Reykjavik, announced Friday that it will introduce nonstop service from Anchorage to Iceland beginning in the summer of 2013.

A press release from the company said that Anchorage is one of three new cities being introduced to the airline's service area, joining Zurich, Switzerland and St. Petersburg, Russia. The introduction of Icelandair to the potential air carriers in and out of Alaska opens up new opportunities for international travel for Alaskans.

"From its hub in Reykjavik, Icelandair offers non-stop connections to more than 20 destinations in Scandinavia, the United Kingdom and Continental Europe," the company said in the release, which means Alaskans can use the nonstop service as a launching point to other destinations.

Details and conditions of the travel were minimal, but the company said that the service will begin on May 15, 2013 and continue through mid-September of 2013, with two flights a week.

"Flights from Alaska to Iceland are approximately seven hours and offer three cabins of service, leather seats and personal in-flight entertainment centers for all passengers. In addition to opening up a new market for Icelandic tourism, travelers will now have a refreshing new option when flying from Alaska to Europe," said Birkir Holm Gudnason, CEO of Icelandair.

Icelandair is a partner airline with Alaska Airlines, long the dominant air carrier in Alaska. Though based in Seattle now, Alaska operates many of the flights that carry Alaskans and visitors to and from the Lower 48. But they appear to be welcoming Icelandair to the market, perhaps hoping that European travelers will use the new flight as a jumping-off point to other U.S. destinations.

"Icelandair's well-timed arrival and departure connects well with Alaska Airlines and will help share and serve all of Alaska," Scott Habberstad, Alaska Airlines’ director of sales and community marketing for Alaska, said in the release.

Alaska has few options for nonstop international travel. Condor has offered over-the-pole travel from Anchorage and Fairbanks to Frankfurt, Germany for the past several summers, with few other destinations offered. Korean Airlines and Japan Airlines brought tourists from Asia this past summer, but Alaska travelers were prohibited from using those flights to go the other direction. Also available this summer were direct flights from Alaska to Russia, though those flights were also limited.