International airport is biggest employer in southwest Iceland

Keflavík International Airport, and the associated businesses around it, are the biggest employer in the southwest Iceland Suðurnes region – providing jobs for up to 1,800 people.

Ví reports that for many years Keflavík airport was the only business operating in the barren expanse of Miðnesheiði, next to the NATO air base; but that in recent years a whole raft of businesses has sprung up around the airport to service it and its customers. Today there are 25 or 26 companies to the west of the main terminal, all servicing air passengers or aeroplanes.

Guðmundur Björnsson, who is chairman of the Keflavík airport organisational committee, says that the first lot was appointed to a car rental company in around 2000 and there has been an explosion of activity since then. The development stalled in the financial crisis and recession, but is now getting underway once again.

All the biggest hire car companies operating in Iceland now have operations at Keflavík International Airport and there are also goods warehouses and customs clearance services for air freight. There are also companies offering fuel services and maintenance and servicing for aircraft – the largest of which is the Icelandair service centre, which employs some 300 people. Then there is the air terminal itself, which is home to dozens of different companies.

Guðmundur says that the airport has become the biggest centre of employment in the region. The number of staff working changes with the seasons; and is around 600-700 in the winter, up to 1,500 in the summer – and he guesses that the number will be closer to 1,800 at the airport and nearby businesses this coming summer — adding that he sees nothing on the horizon which is likely to stop the airport’s increasing popularity in the coming years, as flight traffic is still predicted to grow.

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