Remember GayIceland’s article on TF-GAY, the one that went viral? Well, meet the man who came up with the plane’s registration code: Ögmundur Gíslason, a gay pilot working for WOW air, who says that he was totally surprised that WOW air decided to roll with it and even more shocked by the attention it got.

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Ögmundur Gíslason, the man who came up with the idea of calling WOW air’s new Airbus A330 TF-GAY. He says he’s couldn’t be happier with the positive response it got. Photo by Guðmundur Karl Sigurdórsson/Sunnlenska.

“Skúli Mogensen is a very intelligent individual. He listens to his staff and their arguments and one of his many attributes is that he can change his mind. To me that has always been a sign of a strong character. So, on a whim I decided to send him an email one night and asked him if it wasn’t a splendid idea to register the aircraft flying the inaugural flight to San Francisco – one of our new Airbus A330 – as TF-GAY! I of course included in the email that I’d pilot it to ‘the gay capital’,” says Ögmundur Gíslason, a pilot for the Icelandic airline WOW air, recalling how the idea came up.

Ögmundur had no idea how Skúli Mogensen, owner and CEO of WOW air, would react to his proposal. “Skúli is bold and he’s brave and I thought this was a very risky move for the airline. I even talked to the people in the marketing department and told them that some might take offense; that people wouldn’t want to fly with WOW air because of this. But they had already thought that through and just said that the company policy was to travel with positive, fun and open-minded people, not narrow-minded ones,” he says and adds that no one had dreamed that TF-GAY would gain so much attention.

“It is definitely helping that the aircraft is purple from nose to tail. I even met two friends who live in Canada the other day and they had seen the GayIceland’s piece re-posted number of times on Facebook. This really blew up on social media. Other news media also picked up on this and in every

“When I presented the idea in the email to Skúli I said that I would be the pilot on the virgin flight – in drag!”

one of them they quoted Skúli saying that a pilot within the company came up with the idea. Again it made me feel so proud to be a part of the WOW air-team, many other bosses would just have stolen the idea and said it was theirs.”

But there was one part of the TF-GAY plan that wasn’t followed through with.

“When I presented the idea in the email to Skúli I said that I would be the pilot on the virgin flight – in drag! But two things happened. First, TF-GAY didn’t arrive in time to Iceland so the flight had to be flown by another aircraft in the fleet. And secondly, Skúli wasn’t too keen on the drag idea. He pointed out that being gay doesn’t mean you have to dress up in drag and he was exactly right. So we thought it was best not to cause any kind of misunderstanding, misunderstanding that might offend someone. That’s not what WOW air is about.”

The “only gay” in the cockpit

Ögmundur is gay and he says that he has never experienced prejudice at WOW air because of his sexuality. “It’s not like I announce “I’M GAY!” when I meet people and as far as the WOW air crews are concerned my sexuality doesn’t matter. The girls kiss me and hug me when I show up for work and we talk about boyfriends, dating and more intimate stuff, like they’re talking to the other girls. As for the pilots, they have this chauvinistic image but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They give me a hug, kiss on the cheek or even pinch me on the buttock when we meet, it’s maybe only those who joined recently that are more reserved. I fully understand that,” says Ögmundur and recalls a memorable night he had in the UK.

Ögmundur with the crew before a flight to France on Sunday morning with a plane full of Icelanders heading to see France and Iceland face off in the EURO 2016.

Ögmundur with the crew before a flight to France on Sunday morning with a plane full of Icelanders heading to see France and Iceland face off in the EURO 2016.

“A couple of years ago a few of us were in training in London; three captains and two soon to be captains, and me, a first officer. The guys wanted to treat me to a nice time on Valentine’s day so they took me out to dinner and then to a gay club. We watched a drag show and other entertainers and had a great evening,” he says.

But what about when he travels to countries where homosexuality isn’t accepted? “I worked for Air Atlanta, flying the Boeing 747 classic, before I joined WOW air. During that time I traveled the whole world. I was a lot in the Middle East and Asia, flew to Australia, northern parts of Africa, Europe and over to North America and I even got to go a couple of times to South America and once to South Africa. During those travels I’ve seen different cultures and their approach to homosexuality. I can promise you that in many countries things are not always as they seem. For example some are not as liberal and free as you might think. While others, where you’d expect homosexuality to be frowned up on at every level, are way more gay than you could ever imagine.”

Ögmundur has also lived in different places of the world and admits that he sometimes has had to “adapt” to different cultures. “I lived in Malaysia for a year, in Brussels for a year, and also spent quite some time in Saudi Arabia. Malaysia and Saudi Arabia are both Muslim countries. Of course you have to adapt to those countries and respect their culture, that’s very important. It was however interesting to see that in Saudi Arabia men hold hands, but that’s to indicate their brotherly friendship, not gay love like it would mean in Europe.”

The most beautiful office view

Being a pilot was Ögmundur’s life long dream but he didn’t get his commercial pilot’s license until he was 30 years old. “I knew I wanted to be a pilot just as I always knew I was gay. But it took some time to study to be a pilot. I paid for everything myself and becoming a pilot is extremely costly,” he explains, but can’t quite put his finger on why the skies have always fascinated him so much.

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Always wanted to become a pilot Ögmundur has flown to all the continents, except Antarctica, and has visited over sixty countries.  Here he is in South Africa, where the lions were a bit frisky.

“The plane is such an amazing apparatus. You go into this machine in one place and some hours later you’re in a totally different place. To me it was fascinating that I could do this myself, just hop on a plane and fly it from one country to another, or even across continents. And it’s the most beautiful office view you could imagine. Even when landing in Keflavík, Iceland, in a crazy winter storm, where the plane shakes and rattles, it’s still unbelievable.”

“Some [cultures] are not as liberal as you might think. While others… are way more gay than you could ever imagine.”

Ögmundur usually flies to Europe and back in the same day, heading out in the middle of the night and returning late in the afternoon. When flying to the US or Canada he usually spends one or two nights there before flying back. He has a boyfriend and says it’s sometimes difficult to combine his personal life and work.

“We live together, go to the gym together and take cooking classes together. So it’s not always fun when he’s home alone while I’m out for dinner with the crew in Boston,” says Ögmundur. “He is Russian so he can’t get a VISA neither to the US or Canada since they don’t believe he will return to Iceland. We applied for both VISAs for him but got rejected so fast our heads spun! I think Americans and Canadians believe their boys are more attractive than Icelandic boys, but that is not so,” he states with a snigger. “It sucks I can’t show him that part of the world but I can show him around other parts of the world. We have traveled a bit of Europe together, Toulouse in France being next on our schedule.”

Meeting the royals

Since we’re on the topic of traveling, I must ask Ögmundur what is the most amazing place he has traveled to, seeing that he’s visited over 60 countries and has flown to all the continents except Antarctica. “I’ve been to so many countries but I think I’ll always love Asia the most. Maybe

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GayIcelands’s article on TF-GAY spread like wildfire over the internet, and was cited by several media giants, including BBC , The Daily Mail and The Telegraph.

it is because it is so exotic to me? I once spent six weeks in India where I learnt yoga on a roof top at sunrise, overlooking New Delhi. It was like a scene out of a movie, it was so surreal. I also visited South Africa where I got to see the extremely poor. I’ve also been to Bangladesh and that was even drearier. There I saw people begging all day long with crying babies in their arms. It saddens me so much and sometimes puts me into a melancholic state so see things like that. So during my travels I’ve experienced everything from this to meeting royalty,” he says and I gasp: “What royalty? Tell me more!”

Ögmundur grins and continues: “Well, one day I was at the hotel lobby of my hotel in Penang with the captain of my next flight, where we were waiting to be picked up. We saw a red carpet on the floor and were wondering what it was for when all of a sudden we saw the king and queen walk into the lobby. They walked the carpet and came up to us, chatted a little bit, asked us what we doing there and then thanked us for our contribution to their country. They were very nice and so polite, but what I remember the most was how stunningly beautiful the queen was. Every move she made, every gesture, it all looked so perfect.”

As the interview draws to a close, Ögmundur reveals to my surprise that he is not only a pilot but also has a master’s degree in aviation management. So I find fit to ask if he’s already reached the top in the aviation world – or does he want more?

“I hope I will manage to become a captain later this year. I just love my job here at WOW air. I work with awesome people and I never wake up and think: Oh, I can’t be bothered to go to work. It’s almost like it’s a hobby mixed with my social life and some one just thought it was a good idea to pay me for it. Can it get any better?”

Ögmundur at the age of 5. Ögmundur along his friend Sif. And with his nephew, Gils Gíslason. Photos of WOW air's airplanes/Courtesy of WOW air.

Ögmundur at the age of 5. Ögmundur along his friend Sif. And with his nephew, Gils Gíslason. Photos of WOW air’s airplanes/Courtesy of WOW air.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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