Keflavík International Airport
|Keflavík International Airport|
|Airport type||Public / Military|
|Serves||Greater Reykjavík Area, Iceland|
|Elevation AMSL||52 m / 171 ft|
Keflavík International Airport (Icelandic: Keflavíkurflugvöllur) (IATA: KEF, ICAO: BIKF), also known as Reykjavík–Keflavík Airport, is the largest airport in Iceland and the country's main hub for international transportation. The airport is 1.7 nautical miles (3.1 km; 2.0 mi) west of Keflavík and 50 km (31 mi) southwest of Reykjavík. The airport has three runways, two of which are in use, and the airport area is about 25 km2 (9.7 sq mi). Most international journeys to or from Iceland pass through this airport.
The main carriers at Keflavík are Icelandair and WOW air, each of which has the airport as its main hub. The airport is almost exclusively used for international flights; most domestic flights use Reykjavík Airport, which lies 3 km (1.9 mi) from Reykjavík's city centre, although seasonal flights from Akureyri fly to Keflavík. Keflavík Airport is operated by Isavia, a government enterprise.
Originally, the airport was built by the United States military during World War II, as a replacement for a small British landing strip at Garður to the north. It consisted of two separate two-runway airfields, built simultaneously just 4 km apart. Patterson Field in the south-east opened in 1942 despite being partly incomplete. It was named after a young pilot who died in Iceland. Meeks Field to the north-west opened on March 23, 1943. It was named after another young pilot, George Meeks, who died on the Reykjavík airfield. Patterson Field was closed after the war, but Meeks Field and the adjoining structures were returned to Iceland's control and were renamed Naval Air Station Keflavik, for the nearby town of Keflavík. In 1951, the U.S. military returned to the airport under a defense agreement between Iceland and the U.S. signed on 5 May 1951.
Development since the 1950s
With the reestablishment of the military air base at Keflavík during the 1950s, the air terminal found itself in the middle of a secure military zone. Travelers had to pass through military check points to reach their flights, until 1987, when the civilian terminal was relocated.
The presence of foreign military forces in Iceland under the NATO sponsored Iceland–U.S. Defense Agreement of 1951 was controversial in Iceland, which had no indigenous military forces other than the Icelandic Coast Guard. During the 1960s and 1970s, rallies were held to protest the U.S. military presence in Iceland (and in particular at Keflavík), and every year protesters walked the 50 km (31 mi) road from Reykjavík to Keflavík and chanted "Ísland úr NATO, herinn burt" (literally: Iceland out of NATO, the military away). The protests were not effective. One of the participants was Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who later became the first female President of Iceland.
The former Agreed Military Area at Keflavík was re-designated "Airport, Security and Development Area" under the supervision of the Keflavík International Airport Ltd. (established 1 January 2009), the Icelandic Coast Guard and the Keflavík Airport Development Corporation (Kadeco), respectively. The Coast Guard maintains hangars for military aircraft as well as ammunition depots, air defence radars and other military equipment for national defence. The former military encampment area (U.S. Naval Air Station Keflavík) being developed by Kadeco has been named Ásbrú to reflect its new role. The airport is in the little village named Sandgerði, but the runway leads to Keflavík.
The two 3,000-metre-long (10,000 ft) and 61-metre-wide (200 ft) runways are large enough to support NASA's Space Shuttle as well as the Antonov An-225. On 29 June 1999, Concorde G-BOAA flew from Heathrow Airport to Reykjavík (Keflavík airport). The Concorde had been there earlier. The airport is also an important emergency landing runway for large aircraft in transatlantic operation in the ETOPS system, which requires aircraft to always have less than a certain distance from a suitable landing site. For many two-engine aircraft this is two or three hours with malfunction in one engine, so crossing the Atlantic Ocean would not have been possible for many two-engine aircraft if this airport didn't exist.
In 2016 the United States began preparations to re-occupy the base. In 2017 the United States announced its intention to construct a modern air base on the peninsula despite the history in Iceland of violent protests against repeated American attempts to militarize the island.
The terminal is named after Leif Erikson who was the first European to arrive in North America (Flugstöð Leifs Eiríkssonar, "Air terminal Leif Erikson"). It was opened in April 1987 and separated the airport's civil traffic from the military base. It was later extended with the opening of the South Building in 2001 (not a separate terminal) to comply with the requirements of the Schengen Agreement. The North Building was later enlarged and finished in 2007. The terminal has duty-free stores in the departure and arrival lounges. In 2016, the current terminal was expanded. The expansion added 7 gates. There are also plans to add a third runway.
Airlines and destinations
Although the population of Iceland is only about 350,000, there are scheduled flights to and from numerous locations across North America and Europe. The largest carrier operating out of Keflavík is Icelandair. On 23 October 2012 WOW air acquired Iceland Express making it the second largest Icelandic carrier and the second largest at Keflavík. The airport only handles international flights (except for flights to Akureyri in connection with certain Air Iceland Connect flights to Greenland); domestic flights and flights to Greenland are operated from Reykjavík's domestic airport.
The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter services to and from Keflavík:
|Bluebird Cargo||Liège, Dublin|
|Icelandair Cargo||East Midlands, Liège, London-Stansted, New York–JFK|
|1.||London–Gatwick, London–Heathrow, London–Luton, London–Stansted|
|3.||New York–JFK, New York–Newark|
|6.||Paris–Charles de Gaulle|
Transport between the airport and Reykjavík city is by road only. The distance is 50 km. A new dual carriageway road (route 41) was opened in 2008. Buses are operated by Airport Express, Flybus and Strætó bs to Reykjavík. Taxis are available outside the terminal. Rental cars are available from various companies.
Accidents and incidents
- On 21 July 2013, a Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 airliner, prototype aircraft 97005, made a belly landing during a test flight. The cause was a crew mistake due to fatigue. They operated the plane manually in order to simulate failures.
- On 28 April 2017, a Primera Air Boeing 737-800 skidded off an icy runway.
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Media related to Keflavík International Airport at Wikimedia Commons