Icelandair's new four-day-a-week service between Seattle and Reykjavik starts July 23. The airline will add a fifth flight sometime in 2010.

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As airlines nationwide are trimming international routes, Icelandair says it will add a fifth flight next year to its new four-day-a-week service between Seattle and Reykjavik, Iceland.

Icelandair announced plans for the nonstop Seattle route in March shortly after Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) said it would end Seattle-Copenhagen flights on July 31 after 42 years of flying the nonstop route. Icelandair flights begin Thursday.

Advance bookings have been strong, according to airline spokesman Michael Raucheisen. He said Icelandair will go ahead with plans to add a fifth flight sometime in 2010.

“This is opening up a whole new market for us,” he said. “Based on the numbers we’re seeing, it’s living up to expectations.”

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Seattle will be Icelandair’s only West Coast gateway.

The airline currently flies year-round from New York and Boston and offers seasonal service from Orlando and Minneapolis.

The new flights will serve mainly those connecting to other points in Europe, but the airline is allowing free stopovers in Iceland, a remote country of 320,000 close to the Arctic Circle that was one of the world’s richest countries until its banking industry collapsed last year.

Flights aboard refurbished Boeing 757-200ER aircraft will depart Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, arriving at 6:45 a.m. the next day in Reykjavik where passengers can make connections to 18 European destinations including Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, London and Paris.

Flights return on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays, arriving at Sea-Tac at 5:45 p.m. Flight time is about 7-½ hours.

The planes carry 183 passengers. Fares on start at around $675 including taxes for Seattle/Reykjavik round-trip travel in August and September.

The number of international passengers traveling through Sea-Tac between January and May dropped 11.7 percent compared to last year as the economic downturn has affected business and leisure travel.

But that’s a smaller drop than most other major airports experienced, said Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper. So far, no other airlines, other than SAS, have announced plans to curtail service.

Lufthansa announced recently that it will suspend its flights between Portland International Airport and Frankfurt, Germany, after Sept. 12, saying the 6-year-old nonstop service was losing money.

With the addition of the Icelandair flights, Seattle travelers will be able to fly nonstop to five European destinations.

Northwest flies between Seattle and Amsterdam; British Airways flies to London; Air France flies to Paris and Lufthansa flies to Frankfurt.

Carol Pucci:

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