KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Officials with the Kansas City International Airport and Mayor Sly James announced Icelandair is coming to KCI this year.
Icelandair will bring seasonal transatlantic air service to Europe with new nonstop flights between Kansas City and Iceland. Beginning May 26, 2018, Kansas City-region travelers can fly nonstop from KCI to Icelandair's hub at Keflavik International Airport near the Iceland capital, Reykjavik.
“The number one question we get asked is why Kansas City? And the more I think about it, [the question] is why has no one else taken advantage of it?” explained Michael Raucheisen with Icelandair. “This is an amazing location in the heart of the United States with a 3,000,000 person market that has no options to go to Europe directly.”
According to the Kansas City Aviation Department, Icelandair's Kansas City service will offer three nonstop flights per week to Iceland with connections to and from more than 25 destinations in Scandinavia, the UK, and Continental Europe.
The plan is to introduce the flights on a seasonal basis, operating from May to September. KCI said the long-term goal is to offer the flights year-round.
Airport leaders said giving passengers from Kansas City a direct flight to Europe will bring fares down for passengers from Kansas City shopping for flights to Europe.
A few months ago, 41 Action News reported that airport officials traveled out of the country to speak with an international airline, trying to bring them to Kansas City.
KCI officials and city leaders touted the fact that more airlines are using smaller planes for flights and pitched that Kansas City could be the new home for an airline.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James said the flight will connect businesses with markets across the ocean.
“The more our businesses are able to do business outside of Kansas City, the better off the people inside Kansas City are because that means the businesses are stable, they're making revenue, they're able to hire,” James explained.
At a press conference making the announcement, James hammered home the importance of having international flights at KCI.
“It's just as important to have international travel as it is to be able to get from Johnson County to downtown,” James said.
News of the announcement brought joy to Vigthor Zophoniasson, a theatre actor from Iceland who now lives in Lenexa.
“We go (to Iceland) about every year or year and a half,” he explained. “It just makes the travel so much easier and we're more likely to go and visit more often or get family to come visit us."
Zophoniasson said traveling to Iceland can often include expensive airfare, multiple layovers, waiting in customs lines, and a long day of traveling.
“(The flights) usually leave at eight o'clock and you arrive very early morning next day. With a little child, that made travel a little harder,” said Zophoniasson, who has a 7-year-old son named Brimi. “We recently flew from Kansas City to Boston, did one-night layover there and then flew from Boston to Reykjavik."
With the new route coming to KCI this spring, Zophoniasson said it could also help attract more European travelers to the metro, including his family.
“To have a nonstop flight overseas from here is very big,” he explained. “We'll probably have to use our guest bedroom more often for families coming our way in the future."
Greater KC Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Joe Reardon also celebrated the announcement on Tuesday.
Reardon told 41 Action News the route at KCI offered metro businesses an easier way to get to Europe.
“We have a lot of companies that do business and have locations in London and in Germany,” he explained. “Their ability to connect in a more efficient way to Europe is extremely important to their growth."
Reardon said the access for businesses could ultimately help them possibly expand or bring jobs.
“Businesses that are based in Kansas City but are doing business all over the country and all over the world, that's important to all of our jobs,” he explained. “Even if you're not the individual that's going to do that work directly, we all rely on a growing economy. Our jobs rely on it."
For travelers, Reardon said the Icelandair route could also attract competition at KCI and possibly lead to more flight options and cheaper airfare.
“Even if you're not planning on going to Europe, a competitive environment at KCI is extremely important to our viability,” he explained.
The new flights to Iceland will takeoff from terminal C at KCI, which is currently seeing construction on a $12 million project to improve the international arrivals and departures area at the airport.