Airlines Eye Direct Flights Between China and Iceland

Keflavík airport

Chinese airlines, such as Juneyao and Air China, are exploring direct flights between China and Iceland. He Rulong, the Chinese ambassador to Iceland, revealed this at a press conference at the Chinese embassy today, reports.

Shanghai or Beijing to Keflavík

Last week, the ambassador discussed potential flight routes with Isavia, the national airport and air navigation service provider of Iceland. He told reporters that Isavia wants to strengthen its cooperation with Chinese airlines and that direct flights could begin within a few years. He hopes to see them up and running even sooner, as a large portion of tourists in Iceland visit from China.

“The discussions have been ongoing this year and I know they’re looking at options with a few different airlines,” the ambassador said. “The flights could be between Keflavík and either Shanghai or Beijing.”

Plans halted by pandemic

Direct flights had been in discussion shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic began and the airline Juneyao was already planning flights from Shanghai to Keflavík with a layover in Helsinki, Finland. Two flights per week were being scheduled, but the pandemic disrupted these plans.

“Many are now asking when this could happen,” the ambassador said. “Some say in five years, others in three. My answer would be that we should be even more optimistic and work hard to make this happen sooner rather than later.”

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WOW Discontinues Flights to Gatwick

WOW air has sold its flight times at Gatwick airport in the UK, RÚV reports. The purchase price of the flight times and their buyer remain confidential at this time.

The sale means that as of March 31, 2019, the discount airline’s UK destinations will be reduced to one – Stansted airport, also in the London area – as it recently also discontinued flights to Edinburgh in early October 2018. Around the same time, flights to four US destinations – San Francisco, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Cincinnati – were eliminated as well. The latter three destinations had only been in service for about five months at the time of their cancellation.

In its announcement, WOW simply chalked up the necessity of cancelling flights to Gatwick  to a streamlining of operations. The airline’s financial woes have been much-reported of late, and led the company to lay off 111 employees at the beginning of December. WOW air is also set to reduce their fleet by almost 50%, from 20 to 11 planes. The company will retain only Airbus A321 and A320 jets, suitable for short- and medium-range flights, and will cut New Delhi and Los Angeles from their itinerary on January 20 and January 14, respectively.

US-based firm Indigo Partners recently invested ISK 9.4 billion ($75.88m/€67.23m) in WOW air, and is set to acquire shares in the company as well. WOW air’s CEO and founder Skúli Mogensen recently explained that going forward, the company’s operational model will be adjusted so as to conform to that of the super-low-fare airlines that Indigo Partners normally works with.

Thirty-Seven Percent of Icelandair and WOW air Destinations Served By Both Airlines

Icelandair airplane Keflavík airport.

Icelandair and WOW air have 21 common destinations, reports. Observers of the planned merger of the two companies are now debating how both companies’ route plans might be changed in the coming months.

The two companies fly to a combined 56 cities, 37% of these being serviced by both airlines. Icelandair currently flies to 45 destinations; WOW air flies to 35, although it actually serves 37 airports, as it offers flights to and from two airports in both London and the greater New York City area. WOW air has recently had to cut destinations, discontinuing routes to St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Cleveland. Additionally, it is not currently offering flights to all of its advertised destinations, although passengers can book flights in advance for these on-hold cities. One example is flights to New Delhi, which won’t start being offered until December. Likewise, flights to Tel Aviv were suspended in October and will not resume until June.

Both companies plan to expand their route networks in the future. Wow air wants to expand by 15% and to offer increased flight frequency on its popular routes. Icelandair has planned a new implementation of its flight schedule for 2019, following changes which left it imbalanced this year, such as cutting night flights to Europe and morning flights to North America.