WOW air will deliver on its Eastern promise with the launch of non-stop flights from Iceland to Delhi

The main focus of WOW air’s developing low cost long haul network has been to connect markets across Europe with North America via Keflavik International Airport in Iceland. It is nothing fundamentally new and is a similar model that Icelandair has successfully used for many decades. However, its strategy is evolving and having spread its European network further east to Tel Aviv, Israel, it will later today (15-May-2018) confirm the launch of flights between Iceland and Delhi, India.


Summary:

  • WOW air has exploded into the low-cost transatlantic market with a network that covers over 30 destinations in Europe and North America;
  • The LCC more than doubled its system capacity in 2016 (+108.9%) and grew a further +72.9% last year, increasing its inventory to just short of three million seats;
  • WOW air is now expanding its network further to the east and will launch a three times weekly Reykjavik – Delhi service from Dec-2018, growing to five times weekly from Jan-2019;
  • The Blue Swan Daily analysis of planned flight schedules shows flights are positioned for the outbound Indian market with short transfers in Iceland to the airline’s North American departure wave.

Having lived in the shadow of Icelandair’s effective European and North American network strategy since it launched services in 2012, WOW air has now exploded into the low-cost transatlantic market with a network that covers over 30 destinations in Europe and North America. And having more than doubled its system capacity in 2016 (+108.9%) from 818,000 to over 1.71 million seats, it grew a further +72.9% last year, increasing its inventory to just short of three million. It expects to continue its rapid rise as the low-cost long-haul model continues to stimulate passenger demand.

CHART – WOW air is an emerging player in the low cost long haul market across the Atlantic with significant capacity growth over the past two yearsSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG

This rapid rise has seen the carrier adapt the Icelandair model, and taking advantage of Iceland’s location, it has been able to deploy smaller capacity single-aisle airliners to deliver new one-stop European connectivity to numerous US cities, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit and from later this week, St Louis. These same aircraft are also deployed across a growing European network and one that has already expanded further east to Tel Aviv.

According to the airline’s founder and CEO Skúli Mogensen, new generation aircraft technology such as the Airbus A321neo and Boeing 737 MAX offer both opportunities and threats to the airline’s business model. While the new generation airliners will allow passengers “to bypass Iceland” and take advantage of new non-stop transatlantic connectivity, he acknowledges they have also opened the door for the airline’s own route development, highlighting the flight from Keflavik International Airport, serving Reykjavik, to Tel Aviv in Israel, a 7hr 30+min sector on a narrowbody aircraft.

“We might not have considered this with a larger aircraft”, he said, and noted that the arrival of new A321neoLR will open up further range options, especially smaller mid-sized cities that can’t be served sustainably with widebody equipment. “Iceland has a great opportunity to now become a global hub”, he added “with network options both east and west”

Having already started building its presence to the west, WOW air is now opening up those network options to the east. The airline has successfully grown its model to also encompass a small widebody fleet of three A330-300s and four A330-900neos are due to arrive from the end of this year. Its existing aircraft are currently deployed to the west coast US markets of Los Angeles and San Francisco and from this month also to Dallas.

TABLE – WOW air is growing its Airbus fleet including the introduction of its first A320 and A321 neo variantsSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation Fleet Database

While, Israel may be deemed suitable for the A321 anywhere further east is not within the range of the narrowbodies and so the arrival of the additional A330s will support this eastern network expansion. The first stage of this will see the launch of a three times weekly service between Reykjavik and Delhi from the start of Dec-2018. Its schedule display suggests this will launch from 06-Dec-2018, growing to a five times weekly operation from Jan-2019 after a second aircraft is deployed on the route.

This is a massive step forward for the airline, but strangely its current published schedule for the route does not necessarily maximise connection options in and out of its Keflavik International Airport home. Although reservations are not currently available ahead of the formal announcement the GDS shows the A330 service departing Reykjavik as ‘WW322’ at 11:45 and arriving at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi at 03:15 the following day. The aircraft will then depart Delhi at 07:00 and arrive back into Iceland at 13:20.

The Blue Swan Daily analysis of OAG schedule data on the days of the initial flights at the start of Dec-2018 (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from Iceland; Wednesday, Friday and Sunday back into Iceland) shows behind and beyond connectivity options, many city pair options involve relatively long transfers.

While connections originating on WOW air services from Baltimore, Boston, New York (Newark) and Toronto will be able to transfer to the Delhi flights, it will involve six hour plus waits. Things are a little better on the westbound routing with the Delhi arrival connecting well with a wave of trans-Atlantic departures within a 1hr 30 min – 2hr 30min timeframe.

If this schedule is accurate it would suggest the flight is being mainly targeted at the Indian outbound market with perhaps the offer of an Iceland half-day stopover on the return, an initiative that Icelandair has previously successfully used to itys advantage.