Icelandic Aviation Pioneer Dies – Brought Low Fares to Europe

Sigurdur Helgason, an early CEO of Icelandic, a predecessor to Icelandair, died over the weekend.  Helgason was said to be responsible for Icelandic’s strategy of offering low fares to Europe – a move that preceded Freddie Laker, who popularized the practice in the 1970s.  Helgason convinced Luxembourg, which did not have a state-run airline to compete with Icelandic, to accept flights into its airport, and the airline’s one-class service thrived, with myriad backpackers making the stop in Iceland on their way to Europe.

I mention his death here because his low fare strategy to Europe changed the way people traveled, allowing students to travel en masse to Europe for the first time — in fact my first flight to Europe was on an Icelandair DC-8 to Luxembourg.  Laker expanded the concept, flying into far-more-convenient London, but Icelandair thrived, even as others lowered their fares.

It’s good to take a second today to remember the guy who made a lot of trips we’ve all taken possible…

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