Gray Line Iceland - How big is Keflavík Airport?

Posted by Admin on 17 Apr 2024

How Big is Keflavik Airport?

Considering it’s located in a relatively small country, Keflavik International doesn’t feel like a small airport. Since its inception in the 20th century, it has moved with the times and expanded to meet the changing needs of those who use it. After you land, you’ll find it’s easy to navigate and has everything to meet your immediate needs as an arriving passenger. Let’s take a look at Iceland’s largest airport to see how big it is and the kinds of facilities it has.

Keflavík Airport

A bit of background

Keflavik hasn’t always been a civilian airport – in fact, it started out as a US air base. During World War Two, it was built to replace a landing strip at Garður on the Reykjanes peninsula which was used by the British. Iceland’s location in the mid-Atlantic meant it had strategic importance to the Allies and so greater capacity was needed. Two separate runways were constructed, the first in 1942 and the second a year later.

After the war ended, this second runway became Naval Air Station Keflavik and was under Icelandic control. However, a US military base was re-established in 1951 and until 1987, when a new terminal was constructed, civilian travellers had to navigate military checkpoints to be able to board their planes. It was a potentially confusing and inefficient state of affairs and so as more and more people began flying, something needed to be done to improve the passenger experience.

Expansion over time

Of course, such expansion continued. Iceland has seen a huge increase in international tourism since the late 1980s – even more so in the last decade – and so it makes sense that the airport has grown together with visitor numbers. There was significant expansion in 2001 when the structure was bumped out to make room for the South Building.

The next big change came in 2007 when the North Building was added to; further expansion took place in 2016 to accommodate additional gates. The number of passengers using Keflavik peaked in 2018, when just over 9.8 million people passed through. In 2023, the volume of traffic almost reached pre-pandemic figures; 8.5 million passengers are predicted to pass through Keflavik Airport in 2024.

Compact and easy to navigate

According to data collected by Isavia, 21 airlines flew to 65 destinations in April, with most visitors coming from the US and the UK. Right now, these passengers use three different gate areas at Keflavik Airport, lettered A, C and D. Flights depart according to their

destination; those to the UK, plus the US and Canada leave from the D gates while those to other European destinations used the A and C gates.

The relationship between these sets of gates is really only important to those connecting through Keflavik as an intercontinental hub on a journey between North America and Europe or vice versa. But even for those passengers transiting without leaving the airport, transfer times remain comparatively short and the airport is not large enough to require transport such as air trains or shuttles. The walk between the A/C gates and the D gates takes around 20 minutes.

Having just one single terminal helped keep things straightforward for passengers that aren’t familiar with the airport’s layout – and still does. It takes away the need for transfers between terminals which can be time-consuming for passengers in transit and as such, often unpopular. Hubbing through Keflavik Airport is straightforward, though you do miss out on Iceland if you choose not to clear immigration and customs!

What does the future look like for Keflavik Airport?

More change is afoot as Keflavik Airport aims to keep pace with demand, helping to fuel the country’s economy and boost Iceland’s links with the rest of the world. The expectation is that Icelandic tourism will continue to be buoyant as we look to the future. Winter tourism is showing steady growth but there is a need to expand Keflavik. A new terminal extension is already underway.

It will be known as the East Pier and it will add 85,000m2 to the airport’s total area. It adds 17 aircraft gates with air bridges as well as gates for remote stands. When finished, it will have an annual capacity of 14.5 million passengers, a sizeable increase on the current situation.

The first phase of this new part of the terminal will be complete in 2024. The new development means there will be a larger baggage hall and, behind the scenes, more streamlined systems to handle those bags. There will be more gates, plus additional space for more shops and restaurants.

Facilities for those arriving from countries outside the Schengen zone will also be improved. Outside, there’ll be a new taxiway, so aircraft won’t have to wait as long before they’re given permission to take off from the main runway. Iceland’s population might only be a little under 400,000, but this work means that Keflavik can reach its potential as a destination for international visitors or as a connecting hub.

So how is the space used at Keflavik Airport?

In all, when you take into account runways, hangars, car parking spaces and passenger facilities, the airport spans an area of around ten square miles. Inside, the airport terminal feels light, airy and spacious, even at peak periods. Of course, there are all the usual

facilities you’d expect from a major airport including a tax refund kiosk, lost luggage desk and even a play area for children. Shops and eateries are logically grouped airside, while a large duty free shop appeals to both arriving and departing passengers.

So for instance, you’ll find shops selling coffee table books featuring some of the places you’ve been wowed by as you’ve travelled through Iceland. Perhaps you’ll pick up a lopapeysa sweater to wear when the weather’s cold back home, or a funky pair of socks with puffins on. Order a coffee and a bite to eat while you figure out which souvenirs are coming on the plane with you.

Good to know: Keflavik Airport doesn’t have any domestic flights

One thing Keflavik doesn’t have, however, is domestic flights. These depart from Reykjavik Airport, close to the city centre. You can check the current list of destinations for both of these on the Isavia website. If you plan to fly in to Keflavik Airport and continue on to a domestic destination via Reykjavik Airport, you’ll need to arrange a taxi or buy a bus ticket to get between the two.

However, if you’re planning on taking a domestic flight after you land in Iceland, this need to switch airports isn’t such a bad thing. Your trip to Iceland is likely to be better if you can spend time in Reykjavik. Not only will overnighting in the capital give you peace of mind if your inbound flight is delayed, it also gives you time to explore the attractions and sights of Iceland’s charming capital city.

So why not sort out your Airport Direct by Gray Line Iceland transfer online? Booking a return trip saves you 15% on the cost of two singles – and you’ll find getting to Reykjavik is a breeze. With frequent departures, ample space for luggage and onboard WiFi, it’s a great way to get your Iceland trip off to a flying start.

Recent articles

Iceland?s Glaciers

Explore Glaciers in Iceland: Breathtaking Ice Cave Tours & More

Discovering the Volcanos of Iceland

Discover the breathtaking beauty and raw power of volcanos in Iceland. Learn about the must-visit volcanic sites and experiences for an unforgettable adventure.

Iceland Summer Celebrations

Discover the vibrant summer celebrations in Iceland and immerse yourself in a world of music, culture, and natural beauty. Join us on a journey to experience the magic of Iceland's summer festivities.