Signing an air services agreement between two countries does not of course mean that a new route launch is imminent, but it does set the scene to undertake research and do all the background work to ensure there would be a high probability […]of viability, if such a service is implemented.
Reykjavik or Keflavik is 3,957 miles (Great Circle), 3,438 nautical miles (nm) or 6,367 kilometres from Barbados, so in flying terms, around eight hours.
Who could operate the route?
The legacy carrier which can trace its roots back to 1937, Icelandair appears to be the front runner, having recently placed an order for two Boeing 767 – 300 ER (extra range) aircraft which are slated to enter service in spring next year. While these are being acquired to operate London (Heathrow), flights there may be an opportunity for a once weekly service to Barbados.
Icelandair currently operate to 54 destinations in Europe and 7 in Scandinavia from their hub at Keflavik/Reykjavik airport and this would give them a tremendous feed potential onto Barbados bound flights. From my early travel agent days, the airline was also accredited as ‘masters’ of stopover packages, where traveller’s could break their journey enroute for up to seven nights, at no extra flight cost to enjoy a completely unique holiday experience.
Two-centre ‘vacations’ are increasingly popular and when they offer such enormous contrasts are especially attractive to a huge segment of the travel market.
But Icelandair is not the only option. WOW Air flew its inaugural flight from Iceland to Paris in May 2012. By the end of 2015 they expect to have carried over 800,000 passengers this year. The airline is wholly owned by entrepreneur and investor, Skuli Mogensen, who made his fortune primarily in the technology, media and telecom industry. His online bio can only be described as very impressive and he appears to have a passion to make air travel more affordable.
WOW Air recently added A321 aircraft to their fleet, enabling the operation of transatlantic flights from as little as US$99 each way between Canada and the US to/from Iceland. According to the Airbus website, particular versions of the A321 have a range of 4,000 nm or 7,400 kilometers, so could reach Barbados nonstop from Iceland fitted with 200 economy seats.
While the exact seating configuration for the new B767-300ER destined for Icelandair has not yet been disclosed, almost certainly their planes will have an option of seat classes. That’s a consideration our tourism planners will have to bear in mind, if it gets to that stage. The option of a low cost 200 standard seats or a larger plane with business and first class choices.
Regardless of which is preferable, it is difficult to imagine that a country with a population of Iceland, estimated at only 329,000, alone could sustain such a route. In fact with a land mass of 40,000 square miles it is rated as the most sparsely populated country in Europe. But over 3.82 million passengers arrived, departed or transited Keflavik airport in the first nine months of this year.
So in any event, the hub and spoke connections will be crucial to any success.
Air agreements with Iceland are nothing new of course. Some may recall when Caribbean Airways wet-leased a B707-320 from Air Atlanta Icelandic (AAI) in 1986 to operate the Gatwick/Barbados route. From that first contract, AAI went on to become one of the world’s largest specialists in aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance provision.