Inaugural Iceland flight with Kenney aboard is diverted

The inaugural Icelandair flight from Philadelphia with Mayor Kenney aboard was diverted to Boston late Tuesday after experiencing a technical problem over Canada.

Kenney, a critic of international travel by his predecessors, was on board an Icelandair flight for Reykjavik, Iceland, as part of a cultural exchange to mark the first direct flights between the city and Philadelphia.

The flight was diverted to Boston, however, due to a technical problem, according to Icelandair. A rubber smell was detected on the aircraft, the airline told people asking questions on social media about the diversion. Further information about the technical issue was not described.

Icelandair said a new flight would depart Boston at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and land in Iceland at 1:30 a.m.

The website showed the plane making an unexpected turn at 10:47 p.m. By 10:54 p.m., the website reported that the flight had been diverted to Logan International Airport, where it landed about 12:30 a.m.

“We and Icelandair are committed to doing all we can to ensure future travelers have a smooth travel experience on this new route,” Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said. “This is obviously very out of the ordinary.”

Hitt said it is tradition when new international routes are established to the Philadelphia International Airport for the mayors to visit one another’s cities.

Perhaps because Kenney often blasted Mayor Michael Nutter for traveling out of the country, Hitt did some research on the topic. The city’s law department dredged up a memo referencing a 1991 trip that then-Mayor Wilson Goode took to Switzerland to mark the first Swiss Air flight to Philadelphia.

“It would have been difficult to entice them to establish support here if we had said we’re … not sending the mayor as part of this cultural exchange,” Hitt said. “It would have been seen as a snub for us to not partake in it when all previous mayors have done so.”

Kenney is to return Saturday.

He is scheduled to speak at Iceland University about Philadelphia’s status as a so-called sanctuary city. He will also attend a dinner at the U.S. embassy; visit the Althing, Iceland’s parliament; and tour the Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Plant.

The mayor of Reykjavik, Dagur B. Eggertsson, has spent two days on a similar tour in Philadelphia.

Hitt said the costs to host the delegation from Iceland were split between the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau and the airport. The airport, which Hitt said is self-sustaining and receives no taxpayer revenue, is paying for Kenney’s travel to Iceland.