Iceland's airline expects positive winter after two tumultuous years

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The Independent Online

Iceland's flag-carrier Icelandair is to increase its capacity by 14 percent this winter, citing an uptick in demand "in spite of severe fluctuations."

The words of Icelandair CEO Birkir Hólm Gudnason are something of an understatement, given the tumultuous two years that has put Iceland on the map once and for all.

Nonetheless, the airline says that it plans to run an extra ten flights every week compared to last year, the majority to European cities such as Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, as well as a new route between Reykjavik and Munich in Germany.

The past couple years have seen the small country, which sits just outside the Arctic Circle and is home to just over 300,000 people, repeatedly make headlines around the world, turning it into somewhat of a reluctant celebrity.

In 2008, several of Iceland's banks collapsed, prompting a diplomatic row with several European countries and fall in the value of the Kronor.

The traditionally expensive country became far more attractive for travelers, and tourism showed a slight uptick in demand between 2007 and 2008, according to official statistics.

In March 2010, the Eyjafjoell volcano blew its top, creating a spectacular light show that was easily observable by tourists, with budget carrier Iceland Express saying that the eruption had caused a 20 percent surge in bookings.

The initial eruption was then followed by a second, more powerful blast in April, scattering a cloud of ash that paralyzed air travel in Europe for a week and threw Iceland's unpronounceable volcano into the global spotlight.

However, as Iceland's air traffic authorities pointed out to some mirth at the time, the ash cloud blew across Europe, leaving Iceland's main airports unaffected and able to handle the increased traffic from North Atlantic nations such as Canada and the US.

Faced with a public relations disaster in Europe, the country's tourism authorities urged Icelanders to join a social media drive to highlight their country as an attractive tourist destination - a tactic that now appears to be paying off.