First Philly Flight to Iceland Diverts Back to America With Mayor on Board

"Rubber smell was detected on board which led to aircraft diversion," Icelandair tweeted

Philadelphia added a cool destination Tuesday to the cities served by its international airport, but the first flight was diverted back to the United States due to technical difficulties.

Icelandair's inaugural flight from the city of Brotherly Love to Reykjavik, Iceland, took off from Philadelphia International Airport Tuesday just before 9 p.m. and was over Canada when it suddenly turned around and landed in Boston around 12:35 a.m. Wednesday.

"Rubber smell was detected on board which led to aircraft diversion," Icelandair tweeted. "Safety is our utmost priority."

Mayor Jim Kenney and a Philadelphia delegation were on board at the time.

"PHL Airport regrets the significant inconvenience this has caused all those on board," Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said. "We and Icelandair are committed to doing all we can to ensure future travelers have a smooth travel experience on this new route. This is obviously very out of the ordinary."

Kenney got off the plane in Boston. They then boarded Icelandair's scheduled new flight from Boston at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Hitt said.

"The Mayor and the rest of the delegation spent the evening in Boston," Hitt said. "At this point, they are planning to proceed to Iceland this afternoon."

Kenney complemented Icelandair customer service and food in a late Wednesday morning tweet:

"Still best in-flight meal I ever had—excited to continue to Iceland today! Thanks @Icelandair for handling with excellent customer service!" [[425508353, C]]

Hitt said it is tradition for mayors to visit each other's cities when new international routes are established. Reykjavik Mayor Dagur Eggertsson spent two days touring Philadelphia.

Kenney is set to be in Iceland until Saturday.

Kenney had joined airport leaders and Icelandair officials to announce nonstop service from Philly to Iceland last October. [[425440244, C]]

"We are very pleased to welcome Icelandair to PHL and look forward to offering nonstop service to Reykjavik," Airport CEO Chellie Cameron said. "This capital city is a gateway to a beautiful country and to its Scandinavian neighbors. We are proud to increase our non-stop international destinations and open a new market to our travelers."

Kenney noted the economic impact of the international flight, which should take less than 6 hours.

"The Airport is a potent economic engine to our city and the region, and convenient air service, particularly to international destinations, is essential in a global marketplace," Kenney said. "We are very excited about Icelandair’s arrival in Philadelphia, and we are eager to build and strengthen a partnership between our city and the amazing city of Reykjavik."

The addition of Icelandair marks the first time in two years that PHL added a service from a foreign airline.

And for anyone looking to hop to mainland Europe, Icelandair has a "Stopover" program that allows travelers to spend up to a week in Iceland without paying additional airfare. [[238427591, C]]

Philly is Icelandair’s 18th U.S. destination. Iceland features 24 hours of daylight in the summer and the northern lights for more than half the year.

"Philadelphia will further strengthen Icelandair’s presence in the Mid-Atlantic and better serve our passengers with faster travel times to Europe and easy connections through the City of Brotherly Love," said Iceland air CEO Birkir Holm Gudnason. "Philadelphians will now have a refreshing alternative when traveling to Iceland and beyond, and Icelanders and Europeans will have direct access to the historic city of Philadelphia boasting the fifth largest population in the United States. This is an exciting and significant moment for Icelandair and we look forward to welcoming Philadelphia aboard."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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