Icelandair Eyes 18 Pct Capacity Growth In 2016

November 2, 2015

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Icelandair plans to increase capacity by 18 percent next year by luring customers to a network of niche North American cities and tempting them with onboard WiFi services.

Icelandair flies between European and US cities via its Reykjavik hub, which means it can use smaller, cheaper planes than other airlines on trans-Atlantic routes. It estimates it has a 2 percent share of the North Atlantic market.

"We are planning next year to grow 18 percent in terms of available seat km," said Helgi Mar Bjorgvinsson, senior vice president of marketing and sales.

That compares with an average annual growth rate of 15 percent over the last five years.

The airline is facing competition on Europe to North America routes from budget airlines such as Wow Air, a rival Iceland-based airline that also uses the Reykjavik stop-off model, and Norwegian, which offers low-cost direct flights.

Wow Air said on Monday it would add new routes between Reykjavík and Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2016.

Also from next year, Canada's WestJet will start flying direct routes from Toronto to London Gatwick at budget prices.

Bjorgvinsson said flying to destinations such as Edmonton, Denver, Seattle, Portland and Anchorage gave the airline access to niche markets that have fairly few direct flights to Europe.

Unlike on some budget airlines, passengers do not have to pay to check in their bag, and from the end of this year, the whole fleet will be WiFi-enabled, he added.

(Reuters)