Icelandair Is Adding Flights To Kansas City As Of May 2018

Iceland’s two largest airlines — Icelandair and WOW Air — just can’t stop growing. They’ve been adding so many new flights to the US, using Iceland as a gateway between North America and mainland Europe.

Icelandair announced several new destinations in 2017, including Dallas and Cleveland. The airline has just made their first route announcement of 2018.

Icelandair will add 3x weekly seasonal flights between Iceland and Kansas City, between May 25 and September 29, 2018 (and the route is expected to continue in 2019). The route will be operated with the following schedule:

FI841 Keflavik to Kansas City departing 6:00PM arriving 8:45PM [Sun, Tue, Fri]
FI840 Kansas City to Keflavik departing 5:15PM arriving 5:10AM (+1 day) [Mon, Wed, Sat]

The flight will cover a distance of 3,302 miles, and is blocked at 7hr45min westbound and 6hr55min eastbound. It will be operated by a Boeing 757-200, featuring 183 seats, including business class (which is more like domestic first class on a US airline), premium economy, and economy.

Icelandair’s 757 business class

As you’ll notice based on the schedule, the aircraft utilization on this route is terrible, as the plane sits on the ground in Kansas City for over 20 hours. This is because Icelandair’s route network is based so heavily around optimizing connections between the US and Europe, so the priority is that all flights are timed to maximize connections in Iceland.

They’d rather have a plane sit idle for 20 hours (which is very expensive, typically not just in terms of the actual parking costs, but also in terms of the opportunity cost) in order to ensure that it’s optimized for connections. Icelandair does this for a few of their long routes. For example, Icelandair has historically had a plane sitting on the ground in Seattle for 23 hours per day.

Rather significantly, this Icelandair flight represents Kansas City’s first transatlantic flight (if you can call a flight to Iceland transatlantic), so it’s a big win for the city. However, it’s coming at a big cost.

According to the Kansas City Star, this route comes heavily subsidized:

KCI and Kansas City business organizations offered Icelandair incentives to help persuade the airline to commit to the new route. KCI agreed to waive landing and airport usage fees for two years that it otherwise charges other airlines to Icelandair. KCI will also award $250,000 to Icelandair for each of the next two years to market the route in Kansas City and to promote Kansas City in Europe.

Those are some significant incentives, given that we’re talking a 3x weekly flight that runs for 20 weeks. Icelandair will operate a total of 60 flights in each direction each year. The marketing subsidies alone are ~$4,200 per roundtrip flight, and that doesn’t account for waived landing and parking fees and other incentives from the business community. I’d note however that these types of incentives from smaller airports aren’t unusual.

This flight is now bookable on Icelandair’s website, and fares start at ~$572 roundtrip in economy between Kansas City and Iceland, and in many cases you can connect to other points in Europe for only marginally more. Keep in mind that one of the best aspects of Icelandair is that they allow a free stopover in Iceland on a roundtrip ticket, so if you want to go somewhere else in Europe, this is a great opportunity to stop in Iceland.

In terms of earning and redeeming miles on this flight, Icelandair’s most useful US airline partner is Alaska Airlines. You can earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles on Icelandair, as follows:

And here are the redemption rates, should you want to redeem miles:

Congrats to Kansas City on this route, though it didn’t come cheap.

Anyone plan to take Icelandair’s new flight to Kansas City?

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)


  1. I live in NY so have no horse in this race, but I will say that Kansas City is an underrated destination and would be a great place for a European to visit on a trip to the US (if not the first trip, then the second or third). There is a ton to see in KC, especially if combined with STL, which likewise has a tremendous amount to offer to visitors.

  2. I’m not too far away, so I might have interest in a cash ticket if they have some sales. Redeeming Alaska miles for an award seat doesn’t look like a great value.

  3. Well IcelandAir are going to have a lot of old B757’s not doing much when the B737MAX fleet takes over some of the shorter and higher frequency routes.

    The old B757’s are probably paid down assets, so don’t cost much standing on the ground in form of capital costs. And the less you fly the longer it takes for maintenance cycles based on landing and flight time before you have to be do costly maintenance on the plane, except for the C check every 6 years of course.

    Basically IcelandAir seems to be planning an Allegiant style ops with their old B757’s, probably hoping they will last until Boeing pushes out MOM as a replacement for the B757.

  4. As a new Kansas Citian who enjoys traveling to Europe, I am elated about this news! Now that the new single-terminal airport has been approved, I can only anticipate more of these routes in the future, and Icelandair (in my opinion) is SMART for getting an agreement and their presence in the market before all of the construction begins.

  5. LOL, I agree with Luke-Europeans aren’t going to visit KC! But I’m thrilled about the news, living in Kansas.

  6. Kansas City is a wonderful destination! It’s not overrated like many of the coastal destinations, plus its very affordable for tourists.

  7. Are they still flying those ancient 757’s older than Lucky and Ford put together?
    And that sad excuse for Business Class – almost as uncomfortable as Alaska Airlines?

  8. I’m wondering if there’s enough demand to fill the planes taking Kansas City…people to Europe and back, because above comments notwithstanding, I really can’t imagine that many Europeans looking at KC’s list of tourist attractions and saying “now that’s the place for me. They’ve got a greeting card museum!”

    Being an airline geek, I’d happily go to the National Airline History Museum, and a baseball fan friend went there mainly to go to the Negro League Museum (which he loved), but Europeans aren’t known for baseball fandom and have aviation museums much closer to them.

    Can’t blame Icelandair for scarfing up the subsidies while they have the chance, though, and giving Kansas City…ers? …ians? a convenient gateway to Europe at low prices.

  9. Lucky left out the best/worst part of the subsidy:

    “The arrangement is similar to an insurance policy: The organization will put up a certain amount of money that will pay Icelandair if the airline loses money bringing KCI travelers to and from Iceland. If the route is profitable, the Chamber, the KCADC and the others aren’t out any money.”

    That’s why Icelandair is doing this. They literally can’t fail.

    (I live in KC and have been to Iceland. Will probably take this route in next 3 years if it’s still around)

  10. Eric,

    LA would be too far for a 757


    The 20 hours wait at MCI enables the same flight crew to operate in both directions. That saving probably trumps any extra cost of having the plane do nothing for 20 hours/

  11. theres nothing to see in Kansas City lol but this is good for midwesterners to reach places in europe for a cheap price

  12. Good point about the plane sitting. Maybe they could launch a 5th freedom route KEF-MCI-DEN and return. MCI-DEN is usually full on most flights.
    MCI is my home airport and it seems that Icelandair will be working out of the renovated end of the C terminal next to the AA operations there as this is the only real customs gate area. Coming into terminal B would have been a better match for the Alaska airlines partnership.
    I question the long term viability of this venture but think KC has things to offer Euro visitors. It’s not like places in Europe like Manchester or say Shannon are all that exciting but folks still fly to those locations. I really don’t see KC as any worse than Nashville or RDU, etc.
    Redeeming Alaska miles on Icelandair seems like a good idea but they have increased the surcharges for awards too much on TATL routes I think.

  13. Danin, Icelandair already flies to DEN. It is another city where an aircraft parks for close to 24 hours. But unlike MCI, there is another aircraft on the route so that they do daily (or close to daily) service. If they are both on time, the Den departure passes the aircraft from Kef about 4:30pm local time!
    As to Kansas City, I think it’s a lovely town. There is a large, active Germania club, and probably other cultural groups who would enjoy travel to Europe, and who have connections that might invite Europeans to visit the City of Fountains (I gather some call it the Paris of the Plains. That might be a bit over the top 😉 )

  14. Redeeming Alaska miles for Icelandair comes with large carrier surcharges (though not as bad as those of BA) if I remember correctly.

  15. Would be good for a European to start in Kansas City, spend a couple of nights and then take Amtrak to Chicago.

  16. MCI-DEN would not be a 5th freedom route since it’s in the same country, this would be cabotage and this is a big no no due to US laws.

    MCI-MEX would be a 5th freedom route, but they would still need approval from both US and Mexican governments to fly the route.

  17. @schar in fact Kansas City has a thriving cultural scene including the iconic Kauffman performing arts centre , although admittedly it’s not on most Europeans radar The airport is also a dump

  18. Thinking that having Iceland>Kansas City connection will somehow attract european tourists to KC is not delusional, it is simply crazy.
    KC is not a tier 1 US destination, its not tier 2 and it is probably not even tier 3
    Do you think anyone in their right mind will choose KC as their first tourist destination instead of NYC, Boston, Chicago, DC, Phily, San Diego, LA, San Francisco, Orlando, Miami, Denver, etc ?
    There is nothing in KC and there is nothing much around KC.
    Nearest city that could be somehow interesting for european tourists is Chicago which is 500 miles away.
    So unless tickets will be $20 pp, this route will only serve as a business route (there are some businesses in KC) or, most likely, as another options for people of Kansas city metro to go to Europe (and possibly visit iceland)
    So, kudos to Iceland air – they got a steady additional supply of american tourists subsidized by provincial american government,

  19. Alex

    KC is a damn fine city and, after Chicago and Cincinnati, is probably the best city in the MidWest.

    That said, I’d agree that it’s not a huge tourist place, but it probably is a shrewd choice for a destination for Americans going to Europe and Europeans looking for a cheap entry point to the US

  20. @ No Name

    “MCI-DEN would not be a 5th freedom route since it’s in the same country, this would be cabotage and this is a big no no due to US laws.”

    And darn tootin right, too. We don’t want any of that free market competition damaging the businesses of those good folks at the US3. No, sirree. Protectionism is always best.

    Er … though of course the US3 are the best in the world, and would crush any furrin competitors given the chance.

    Yep, that’s right.

  21. I’ve visited over 120 countries, and I had a damn good time in KC last weekend. I’m not sure how you could call Fukuoka, Perth, or Warsaw interesting, but say KC has “nothing to offer.”

    Perhaps it all lies in the eye of the beholder.

  22. I’m in Dallas but work with Garmin (based out of KC) and that town has a ton to offer. It is easy to get around, the downtown and Plaza area are great, and I love Royals Baseball stadium and their new Modern Art Museum. Lots more to do and see in Kansas City than IND, STL, or CLE.

  23. Kansas City International is my home airport, thus I was elated to hear this news. I travel to Europe somewhat frequently, and over the next, few years I’ll be living in Germany, so I’m sure to use this route.

    However, I’m somewhat skeptical that it’ll be viable long term. (After subsidies run out.) Yes, MCI is growing and has higher passenger numbers than quite a few other airports with transatlantic destinations in the US. But, there simply aren’t that many travelers going to Europe from the KC area. As of now, I usually connect through ORD on my way to mainland Europe, and if that’s cheaper I’ll continue that way.

    In conclusion, if fairs end up being higher than connecting in ORD, this route will certainly fail.

  24. For various personal and professional reasons, we had a year of US city tourism in 2017: Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlottesville, DC, Providence, Cleveland, Santa Fe – and, Kansas City. KC was an affordable and uncrowded place to spend a fun weekend eating BBQ, drinking beer, and going to museums and Royals games, among friendly people, and I could easily see how that would be attractive to a certain kind of European tourist.

  25. As a born and raised native Kansas Citian now living in SF Bay Area, I’ve always described Kansas City as the “Iceland” of the United States, meaning the problem with Kansas City is that it has “Kansas” in the name which has a negative connotation to people living on the coasts. So it’s fitting that Iceland Air is the first real international flight to the previously misnamed Kansas City/Mid Continent International airport. (the daily flight to Toronto and seasonal flights to Cancun do not count)

    People think it’s a small backward rural cow town. But once you go (typically for business or because a friend/spouse has family there) you find it’s much larger and more vibrant than you expect, with so much to do and see.

    Amazing professional sports teams and sports venues, vibrant local art scene, incredible museums and the restaurants are as good as the coasts, but so much better priced for the food served. It does lack world-class hotels and spas. There is a cosmopolitan class of people that call KC home, but it’s tiny group with the rest of the 2 Million people in KC metro being somewhere on the uninformed yet Midwest polite spectrum.

    All that being said, I doubt anyone from Europe will go to KC, but for the small group of international travelers that call KC home, they will be very grateful for this flight!

  26. @Martin
    I am sorry if I offended your passion for KC, I am believe you that it’s a nice city (although I have never been there).
    The thing is, you are comparing it to other Midwestern cities. People traveling from Europe will be comparing it to other American cities. And with all due respect, it doesn’t come anywhere close to at least a dozen other places.
    I am not really sure it can be defined as viable “entry point” for let’s say 2-week US vacation. Connections are not that great. If people want to have a road trip across US, they typically start on one of the coasts (they may stop in KC for one day driving from let’s say NYC to SF, but thats about it). Starting US trip in the middle of nowhere (figuratively speaking) doesn’t make too much sense to me.
    In fact even for me (living on the East coast and having multiple 2hr long $200/rt daily connections to KC it never even came to mind as a potential vacation destination.

    Florida, NYC, California, Boston, Rocky Mountains … there is so much stuff to see in this country before you want to go to Kansas city (again – no offense 🙂

  27. I checked LondonKC fares for some random June dates.
    Iceland Air is about $800rt (very long connections)
    LondonChicago is about $600rt (1 short connection or direct flight)

    I am sorry, This is NOT a route for europen touristis. This is NOT a cheap “US entry point”
    This a subsidised route for KC residents going on European vacations.
    I could be wrong though..

  28. I think Icelandair is counting on Europeans wanting to visit Omaha. 🙂 Actually, I would expect most if not all of their passengers will be people in or around KC. I live in Omaha and would gladly drive to KC to fly to Europe. Heck, last year my family of 5 drove to Minneapolis to get a “cheap” flight to Copenhagen on Icelandair. It was a great experience and we saved loads flying Icelandair.

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