Getting to the Faroe Islands Just Got Easier (Guest Trip Report)

Guest Posts, Icelandair, Trip Reports

Disclosure: Icelandair provided the flights and lodging for this trip


“The Faroe Islands.”

“Where is that?”

“About halfway between Iceland and the UK.”

There is a pause as a nurse walks into the hospital room.  She asks my father if we’re talking about travel.  My dad then responds with pride, “Yes, my son is traveling to the Fairy Islands!”

This was the scene about 48 hours before I started my journey to the Faroe Islands. My dad had been recovering from an illness, and he had made enough progress that I could head home and catch my flight to the middle of the Atlantic.

Icelandair invited me to join them on the inaugural flight to the Faroe Islands, a self-governing territory of Denmark that has been remarkably difficult to get to from North America.  Outside of a handful of summer-only flights to New York/Stewart, Faroese carrier Atlantic Airways connects to a number of European gateways. Those flights, however, generally aren’t timed well for connections, and the airline has very few interline agreements with other carriers.  That means – unless there was a good option on SAS –  one often would need to fly to Europe on one airline ticket and then purchase another to fly to Vagar Airport.  This is almost always inconvenient from a scheduling perspective, and the prices are high.

While the number of visitors is small — fewer than 5,000 American tourists stay in the islands in a year — the interest is apparently high. Forty percent of the web traffic for Visit Faroe Islands is from the US.  Icelandair hopes that it can drastically increase those tourism numbers by bringing tourists from the US and Canada 76 passengers at a time from its Keflavik hub on a Q400 turboprop. 

As of now, Icelandair will serve the Faroes with seasonal service from May to October, and the flight is timed specifically to match up with early morning arrivals and evening departures from and to Icelandair’s 16 North American gateways (including Pittsburgh and Halifax that begin later this month), and further fed by the agreements with Alaska, JetBlue and Sun Country.

Icelandair 300
May 1, 2024

From Keflavik
➤ Scheduled Departure: 835a
➤ Actual Departure: 844a
➤ From Gate: C29
➤ Wheels Up: 9a
➤ From Runway: 1

To Vagar
➤ Wheels Down: 1126a
➤ On Runway: 12
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 1120a
➤ Actual Arrival: 1136a
➤ At Gate: 1

➤ Type: Bombardier Dash-8-402Q
➤ Delivered: August 28, 2015
➤ Registered: TF-FXA, msn 4022
➤ Livery: 2023 Icelandair Blue Stripe

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 10A
➤ Load: 100% Full
➤ Flight Time: 1h 26m

As a proud, card-carrying avgeek, I was pretty excited to fly the Q400. This isn’t an experience you get too often when based here in the US.  Add to the fact that the Faroes have long been on my list of places to visit, I was pumped for this adventure.  

I arrived at the gate about 8am expecting to see something given that this was the inaugural.  I found, well, nothing out of the ordinary at all. 

I walked around a bit more and met some of the others joining me on the trip before boarding was called.  We hopped on a bus and got to the plane after a short ride.  On the bus is where I learned that an Icelandic teen badminton team was heading to the Faroe Islands for a tournament and would be on both of my flights to and from Vagar. They took up a third of the plane, ensuring solid loads for these early flights.

This inaugural flight was so full, in fact, that a few Icelandair executives who were planning on hopping on board weren’t able to do so and the Director of Marketing had to sit in the jumpseat.  

I was welcomed by a smiling flight attendant who informed me that my carry-on wouldn’t fit in the overhead. 

She told me to just leave it with her, and she’d take care of it.  There were 4 or 5 other bags next to her.  I’m not sure if seeing those gave me comfort, or perhaps it was a lack of judgment after minimal sleep on a short redeye flight, but I just left it with her and asked no follow up questions before making my way back to row 10 – just behind the propeller.

The door closed almost 10 minutes after scheduled departure (probably because an annoying American had to get a bag thrown into the baggage hold), and the props started spinning as the plane pushed back.  

We made our way to the south end of the airport and did whatever the opposite of rocketing off is on takeoff.  The engine noise was largely no match for my noise canceling earbuds, and I turned on a podcast while looking at the views over Iceland.

Shortly after take off, the two flight attendants announced that the service would be slightly delayed, because they were handing out treats for everyone, a Business Class amenity kit and a chocolate bar.

I had specifically seated myself on the left side of the plane to maximize the views over Iceland and on arrival into the Faroe Islands.  About half an hour after take off, we reached the North Atlantic and I realized that I had no idea what was going on in my podcast. I just conked out from lack of sleep.

The next thing I knew, the landing gear was touching down and the engine noise increased as we slowed to a stop on the runway.  We sat on the runway not moving.  It was long enough that I was wondering what the hell was going on when a “follow me” van swooshed past.  We taxied to the end of the runway and turned around.  After turning on to the mid-runway taxiway toward the terminal, we got a water cannon salute to welcome us to the Faroes.  

We arrived on an uncharacteristically beautiful day and were welcomed with champagne and cookies, a men’s choir, and a few speeches to commemorate Icelandair’s new – well, technically, reinstated after a 20 year hiatus – service.

Like the head of any airport, the CEO of the Vagar airport was excited for the new service.  He described it as a game changer for tourism on the islands and was proud to have such a “renowned brand in the North American market” serving his airport.  He introduced the CCO of Icelandair who said there are already bookings to the Faroe Islands from 25 cities in the US and Canada, and Faroese already had bookings to 26 cities in the Icelandair network.  He was then followed by the Faroese Minister of Trade and the Icelandic Minister of Foreign Affairs who both touted the new opportunities that will emerge for tourism, trade and cultural cooperation.  

Everyone was excited about the new service, but that paled in comparison to my excitement to see what the Faroes had to offer.  After 4 days of touring the islands and having an amazing time seeing beautiful landscapes, eating amazing food and meeting incredibly friendly people (I really can’t recommend the Faroe Islands as a destination enough, but that’s not what this post is about), the time had arrived to head back home.

We awoke on Sunday morning to cool, foggy rain.  Some in the group were concerned about the plane making it in with the low cloud levels, but the pilots on this route go through very specific training for the weather patterns and approach at this airport.  Shortly after we left our hotel in Torshavn, any concerns were allayed as we saw that the plane had landed.

Our taxi pulled up to the bustling airport and after dealing with the LAX-level traffic seen above, we all got checked in.  I will note for anyone purchasing economy tickets on this route that you’ll definitely want to make sure you have a fare that includes a checked bag since the overhead bins are so small.

Everyone cleared through security and the final goodbye from the Faroes is a duty free shop before heading to the airport’s two gates (a third is currently under construction).  

This Cranky correspondent managed to deny the exhilaration of going down the colorful children’s slide, but not everyone did.  An Atlantic Airways flight to Oslo boarded through gate 2, and our flight started boarding shortly after they departed.  We made our way across the apron to board the same plane that brought us over here (as of this writing, this air frame has been solely dedicated to the Faroe Islands turn). 

Icelandair 301
May 5, 2024

From Vagar
➤ Scheduled Departure: 135p
➤ Actual Departure: 142p
➤ From Gate: 1
➤ Wheels Up: 157p
➤ From Runway: 12

To Keflavik
➤ Wheels Down: 231p
➤ On Runway: 19
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 225p
➤ Actual Arrival: 236p
➤ At Gate: Bus Gate

➤ Type: Bombardier Dash-8-402Q
➤ Delivered: August 28, 2015
➤ Registered: TF-FXA, msn 4022
➤ Livery: 2023 Icelandair Blue Stripe

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 10F
➤ Load: 98% Full
➤ Flight Time: 1h 39m

I selected a seat on the right side of the plane this time for the same reasons that I chose the left coming in.  With the weather on this day, there wasn’t a whole lot to see, but I did get one last look at the airport as the engines started up during push back.

The Dash is a pretty tight plane, but I didn’t feel overly cramped.  I was thrilled not to be a few inches taller, though.

While I was settling in, the “follow me” van led us out to the runway.  I had noticed that it didn’t escort the Atlantic Airways Airbus out to the runway.  Apparently that has something to do with the width of the plane’s landing gear – amusingly putting the Dash-8 in the same category as a 757.

We took off to the east and circled around to the last glimpses of the Faroe Islands before we disappeared into the clouds.  

While I was tired due to lack of sleep coming in, I was tired for the same reason on the way out.  This time, it was self-inflicted having stayed up enjoying the Faroese nightlife until the wee hours of the morning.  I stayed up for a cup of water before passing out.  I woke up on approach and we touched down shortly thereafter.  

We pulled a 180 on the runway again.  This confused me, as Reykjavik isn’t an airport that requires a back-taxi.  We went the entire length of the runway, passing seemingly perfectly good taxiways and turned left to exit only after we reached the threshold of runway 19.  There, a bus in northern lights colors was waiting for us, thus ending the journey on the Dash and bringing me back to reality for my flight to the US.

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19 comments on “Getting to the Faroe Islands Just Got Easier (Guest Trip Report)

    1. Presumably carry-ons work the same as on any other regional aircraft – if you can’t fit it in the overhead they put it in the hold, as they did for this guy on the way there. Weird that he recommends buying checked luggage.

      The Faroes have been overdue to be overrun by tourism (the way Iceland has been for the last 5-10 years) for some time. The scenery is incredible. It does need better connectivity from North America.

      1. They didn’t gate check to bring them back when you landed, which is why I recommended having a fare with a checked bag if it’s not going to fit on a Q400.

      2. I ask because I was forced to check my bag on a FI 757 that I have always been able to take on board QX and PD Q-400’s.

      3. I’m waiting for the Canadian Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador to be overrun by tourism. I keep hearing great things about them, but there are few direct flights from the US (usually have to fly through Toronto, Montreal, and/or Quebec, which is major backtracking from the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic areas of the US), and the airfares are insane… It’s often cheaper to fly to Europe instead.

        1. Friend of ours just married a Newfie. The battle between Porter and AC are keeping domestic fares down flights from YYZ to YYT and YDF are half the price of a connection thru YYZ from DTW or CLE. I’m seeing fares under $400USD.

  1. Nice trip ! Too bad you were too passed out on both flights to judge the quality of service onboard !!!
    Will we be treated to a Faroe Island travelogue ?

  2. With over 900 whales slaughtered last year in the Faroe Islands, it is at the bottom of my visit list. Google “Faroe whale slaughter” to learn more.

  3. Why does Atlantic Airways only fly to SWF in the US? If you’re only going to have one station in the US, SWF just seems like a bizarre choice. Could they not have gotten use of a gate for one flight per week at BOS or EWR?

  4. The YouTube channel “The B1M” did a feature on the islands not that long ago. It was on a network of road tunnels designed to connect each of the islands, but there have been challenges do to geography, weather & other logistics. It was an amazing thing to watch.

  5. Wow! It seems to be a beautiful place, love to go there some day, I enjoy your videos, thanks for posting. As somebody else said, also awaiting a travelogue, hopefully soon.

  6. The story about your father reminds me of the time when my stepmother wrote and said she was flying Café Pacific to Hong Kong.

    She was flying them as part of a tour package and must have heard the organizer say the name at the orientation. To this day, I like to imagine their aircraft have a Parisian café-esque interior.

  7. I just looked at the summer weather there and it looks like a glorious escape from the oppressive heat and humidity in Tampa at that time of year, and cheaper than Nunavut. Tempting!

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