Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Facebook really wants me to take a trip to Iceland

Over the past few months, I've been getting notifications, updates and advertisements in my Facebook feed such as this:
And this:
And this:
And this:
It's true that I am making another trip you Europe in a couple of weeks (we're going to spend another week at the delightful Austrian Alpine town we discovered two years ago, and we're also going to take an Adriatic cruise out of Venice as well as spend some time exploring Slovenia), so it's possible that my online searches for airfare, hotels, activities and the like have influenced Facebook's advertising algorithms. But why the barrage of advertisements about Iceland? I haven't made any searches on anything Iceland-related.

It's probably just a quirk of the general run-up to summer travel season: airlines, hotels and tour operators are looking for business, and Iceland appears to be the trendy place to visit right now. Among other things, Iceland is a filming location for HBO's popular Game of Thrones series. Furthermore, both of Iceland's major air carriers, Icelandair and WOW, are trying to position the arctic nation as a convenient stopover point between Europe and North America. They actually encourage visitors not to merely change planes in Iceland, but to actually spend a few days there during their trans-Atlantic journey, thereby pumping tourist money into the Icelandic economy. My brother did this a couple of years ago when he flew from Denver to Prague via Iceland.

I'd love to do the same thing one day; Iceland is definitely on my Places to Visit list, and it certainly seems like a logical stopover spot for future trips to Europe. But as of right now, there's really no point in my doing so. There are no direct flights between Houston and Iceland.

The lack of direct flights to Iceland, be they seasonal or year-round, makes Houston something on an anomaly. In recent years both Icelandic carriers have been very aggressive in connecting to US destinations. This is why there are currently flights from Keflavik International Airport to places such as Cincinnati, Cleveland, Kansas City, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Portland. Even Anchorage, Alaska has seasonal service to Iceland's main airport. (Domestic carriers American, Delta and United also serve Iceland, but not nearly to the extent that Icelandair and WOW do.)

But not Houston. (Also conspicuously absent from the list of destinations served directly from Keflavik is the busiest airport in North America: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson. Go figure.)

 if I want to go to Iceland my nearest starting point would be Dallas/Fort Worth, where all of American Airlines, Icelandair and WOW currently provide direct service. However, given that so many European destinations can already be reached from Bush Intercontinental via Air France, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines (Istanbul is technically in Europe...) and United - even Singapore Airlines makes a stop in Manchester - why would I bother going to DFW just so I can make a stop in Iceland on my way to Europe?

So why aren't there any direct flights between Iceland and the USA's fourth-largest city? Maybe Icelandair and WOW think they have the Texas market covered through DFW.  Maybe Houston's on their list of future destinations to serve once they have the right equipment. Maybe their calculations have shown that service to Houston just doesn't make economic sense. Maybe Icelanders just hate Houston. Who knows?

I'm counting down the days to my summer vacation; I will be flying from Houston to Frankfurt on United, where I will transfer to a Lufthansa flight to Venice. Perhaps I'll get a look at Iceland out the window while I'm in route, and I will wave hello.

But until there is nonstop service from Houston to Iceland, I won't be visiting. And that's going to be the case no matter how many advertisements for Iceland pop up in my Facebook feed. 

(Useless fact: if I were of Icelandic descent, my name would be Thomas Horacesson because Iceland uses patronymic names, whereby your last name is your father's first name plus -sson or -sdottir (daughter). Kirby, likewise, would be Kirby Thomasson. His mother's name would be Lori Larrysdottir.)

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