Delta Air Lines will begin flights between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Reykjavik, Iceland, next spring, expanding to a European gateway Minnesotans can already reach on Icelandair.
The daily route, using a Boeing 757 with capacity for 199 passengers, will begin May 26 and end Sept. 6.
Icelandair flies the route 10 months a year and times its flights from Minnesota and other North American cities to connect to other flights going to cities in Scandinavia and the United Kingdom, service that at times is cheaper than Delta's direct flights to Europe.
In a statement, Bob Cortelyou, Delta's senior vice president of network planning, said, "New service from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Reykjavik will open up more opportunities not only for passengers, but also for cargo handlers that import and export fish and other commodities between the two countries."
The Atlanta-based airline is the only U.S. carrier operating in Iceland, serving the island nation exclusively from New York City.
It marks Delta's fifth European destination for MSP customers. The flight will be a code-share with three of Delta's joint venture partners: Air France, KLM and Alitalia.
Last month, Delta announced a seasonal nonstop service between Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Rome, also starting next spring. The airline also flies nonstop from MSP to Amsterdam, London, Paris and Tokyo.
Delta is easily MSP's dominant carrier, boasting 74 percent of all passenger traffic at the airport. Icelandair's Minneapolis-to-Reykjavik flights are 85 percent full, with a good portion of its passengers connecting to other European destinations for relatively cheap fares, said Mike Boyd, head of Boyd Group International, an airline consultancy.
"It could very well be that Delta wants to send a message to Icelandair," Boyd said. "The fact is, Icelandair is giving MSP travelers access to more places in Europe. Delta may be seeing diluted fares to other European destinations."
Those connections and the value are Icelandair's advantage while Delta is "going to have to depend on people coming into MSP from other places," Boyd said, because "Iceland is an obscenely expensive place as a stand-alone destination."
However, he said, there is another possible explanation for the move: the shared Nordic heritage of the two cities.
"I think it's good for everyone," Boyd said. "This is a tough, focused business decision."