Fights for pilgrims


Even after the merger of the two airlines, Flugleidir, the new company, remained in financial difficulties for some years. A reduction in international passengers did not help matters. Charter flights helped keep the company in business. A growing number of Icelandic and foreign passengers wanted to fly to destinations not served by scheduled flights, especially groups of pilgrims. The timing of the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca was particularly convenient for Flugleidir; it took place in wintertime, when planes and crews were unused.

At first, the airline transported baggage only, but over the next few years, it flew tens of thousands of pilgrims from Nigeria, Algeria and Indonesia to Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia. In addition, a strong partnership developed between Flugleidir and Air Algeria, which resulted in the Icelandic airline operating part of the African company's schedules. The pilgrim flights ended in 1984, when the religious festival was moved to Flugleidir’s busy period. The partnership with Air Algeria lasted until 1986