Published on October 30th, 2016 | by Jim Lee0
WOW Air continues its expansion and launches services from Cork from May 2017
On 26th October, WOW air Iceland’s only low-cost airline announced that it would begin scheduled operations to Reykjavik in Iceland, from Cork Airport, beginning May 2017. The new service will allow Cork passengers connect to WOW air’s transatlantic services in Reykjavik, with flights to major US and Canadian cities of New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington DC, Montreal and Toronto.
WOW air will operate four convenient weekly flights, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, during the summer 2017 season, and will operate three weekly services during winter 2017, using a mix of Airbus A320/A321 aircraft.
WOW air became the first airline to offer direct scheduled flights from Ireland to Iceland in 2014 and last year, became the first low-cost airline to offer transatlantic services from Dublin, which will be expanded to operate services up to seven days per week in 2017.
In a comment of the expansion of its Irish services, Skúli Mogensen, founder and CEO of WOW air said: “We are delighted to add Cork Airport to the WOW air route network today. We’re keen to expand our services from Ireland and are delighted to offer further choice and value in travel through our expansion in Cork. As a significant business and leisure hub in Ireland, we have ambitious targets for our Cork services and we look forward to working with Niall and the team in Cork Airport to develop these exciting new routes”.
The ‘Niall’ he was referring to, was of course, Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director at Cork Airport, who said that they were absolutely delighted to welcome WOW air to Cork, as its latest airline partner. “The new service is fantastic news for outbound and inbound visitors, especially as it will offer very affordable transatlantic travel here, the US and Canada,” he added. The new service to ‘the land of fire and ice’ will see an additional 66,000 seats available from Cork Airport, next year.
Describing Iceland as “a stunning country, not unlike our own, that has become a hugely popular destination in recent years” he added that it is regarded for its culture, beautiful landscapes and friendly welcomes and which is an excellent destination in its own right.
In recent years, Iceland has become a hugely popular tourist destination and has regularly featured in travel publications Top 10 list. As the island’s capital, Reykjavik is the main gateway to the island, with plenty to do and see for visitors. But the real beauty of Iceland lies outside the city. The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, is one of the main reasons people visit Iceland, particularly during the winter, which is the best time to witness the dazzling natural light display. A dip in one of Iceland’s hot springs and the Blue Lagoon are also a must-do as well, as is a visit to the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall and the Thingvellir national park.
Despite these attractions and the value of Reykjavik in its own right, Mr. McCarthy believes that the real potential for Cork, is the access to low cost transatlantic travel; “Since they entered the market in 2011, WOW air has been providing very affordable air fares to popular destinations across the US and Canada. With the cost of a return ticket at just over €300, it now means that US travel is even more affordable and I expect seats to be snapped up.”
The €300 return fares that Mr. McCarthy was referring to, was based on fares published with the press release, which were:-
- To Reykjavik from Cork, one way including taxes and charges from €59.99,
- to the US East Coast destinations of Boston (BOS), New York (EWR) and Washington DC (BWI), one way including taxes and charges from €149.99,
- to the US West Coast destinations of Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) and Miami (MIA), one way including taxes and charges from €179.99,
- and to the Canadian cities of Montreal (YUL) and Toronto (YYZ), one way including taxes and charges from €149.99.
However, being a low cost carrier there are a number of extra charges, for pre-booked seats, food and checked in luggage. There are various rates for flights under two, or over four hours, and for connecting flights between US East Coast/Canada and Europe. Currently, WOW Air allows one cabin bag of less than 10kg (size: 42 x 32 x 25 cm incl. wheels and handles) for free. The rates for larger cabin baggage up to a maximum of 12 kg (size: 56 x 45 x 25 cm incl. wheels and handles) is €38.99 per flight leg, if booked on line, or €54 at check in, for connecting flights. For these flights, a checked in bag up to a maximum of 20 kg (44 lbs), will cost €54.99 if booked on line or €62 at check in, again per flight leg, and up to a maximum of 3 bags. Specialist/sporting equipment attracts similar rates per piece. A ‘standard’ pre-booked seat will cost €6-€15 per flight leg (and depending on distance), with a seat with extra legroom, (at least 32″), costing €15.99-€31.99 on line, or €31-€38 at check in. A seat with ‘extra-large’ legroom, (at least 35″), will cost €23.99-€38.99 on line, or €46 at check in. Food at around €9 per item is limited to sandwiches and snacks.
In addition to the low fares and a short two hours stopover in Reykjavik for transatlantic flights, passengers can avail of the the airline’s innovative WOW Stopover package, where travellers have the option of enjoying a break in Iceland, when flying across the Atlantic, to or from any of its European and North American airports.
The new service was also welcomed by Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland who said in a comment: “Today’s announcement is good news for tourism to Cork and the South of Ireland. Not only will it help grow visitor numbers from Iceland, but this new service will also offer connectivity between North America and Cork. We look forward to co-operating with WOW air, Cork Airport and other tourism partners, to maximise the promotion of this new service from Reykjavik to Cork.”
WOW Air continues to prosper
WOW Air also announced recently their expansion to Miami. This followed the successful launch of transatlantic services from Dublin, via Reykjavik, to Boston, Washington D.C, Montréal and Toronto in 2015 and to Los Angeles and San Francisco in January 2016, with the addition of the New York service to begin next month.
According to Mr. Mogensen, the airline has generated 95% plus load factors on its new Los Angeles and San Francisco routes, since they launched. WOW has grown its North American operation by 125% year-over-year and is planning further growth in the US in spring 2017, with the upgrade of Los Angeles and San Francisco to daily, as well as the addition of the new flights to Miami.
WOW air now connects thirty-two destinations across Europe and the U.S. with Reykjavik and expects its annual passenger capacity to more than double in 2016, to over 1.8 million passengers, up from approximately 840,000 in 2015. WOW air was ranked as the 7th best low-cost airline in Europe at the 2013 and 2014 Skytrax World Airline Awards and was the youngest airline in the top ten as well as and the most punctual, with 92% of flights arriving on time in 2014.
The airline flies two Airbus A320 aircraft (TF-BRO and TF-SIS) across Europe, six Airbus A321 aircraft (TF-MOM, TF-DAD, TF-SON, TF-KID, TF-GMA and TF-GPA – delivered on 5th August), on longer and busier sectors, and two Airbus A330 aircraft (TF-GAY and EC-MIO, leased from Air Europa) on its transatlantic routes. A third A330-343E, EC-MIN has also being recently leased from Air Europa. EC-MIN positioned Cambridge – Reykjavik after painting on 9th June 2016. It was then ferried Reykjavik – Palma on 12th October, still with its Spanish registration, prior transfer to WOW Air as TF-LUV. It has since entered service on both transatlantic and European routes.
In May, WOW air signed agreements with Air Lease Corporation (ALC), concerning the long-term lease of three new A321-200 (sl)s, one A321neo and one A320neo. Two of the aircraft have been delivered so far, TF-GMA and TF-GPA, with the remaining aircraft due during the fourth quarter of the year. The A320neo and A321neo are scheduled for delivery during the first quarter of next year and the year after, respectively.
So what now for Norwegian’s transatlantic ambitions from Cork?
Without a doubt, the new WOW Air service to Reykjavik and its range of transatlantic connections will provide a further challenge the services proposed by Norwegian Air International Limited (NAI), initially to Boston and later to New York, which were announced as far back as 25th September 2015. On 15th of April 2016, the US Department of Transportation published a tentative decision to grant NAI the foreign air carrier permit required by the airline to operate the proposed Cork to Boston route. A public consultation followed this which was completed on the 23rd of May, yet there is still no sign of the foreign air carrier permit. NAI even published a tentative Cork – Boston schedule for the summer 2016 season. This envisaged a daily Boeing 737-800 service departing Cork as the D8-5598 at 16:50 and arriving in Boston at 19:05. The return flight was scheduled to depart Boston, as the D8-5599 at 09:00, arriving in Cork at 16:20.
With no decision on NAI’s application likely to be taken until after the United States presidential election, frustration is growing at Norwegian and in Cork and with its public representatives. Responding to questions in the Dáil on 25th October, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said he was “conscious of the potential importance of this service” and confirmed that he and other Ministers had raised the issue in their contacts with senior members of the US Administration, including the Secretary for Transport. He went on: “In addition, our Ambassador and Embassy in Washington are assiduously working on an ongoing basis to advance this issue. The approval of the relevant US authorities, including the US Department of Transport, is necessary in order for the route to proceed. Our Ambassador, Anne Anderson, has proactively engaged with all relevant US authorities to advance progress on the application and has kept the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport fully updated on its progress”.
However, the Minister also said that the Government fully supports “all efforts to promote and strengthen air transport links between Ireland and the United States. This includes the proposed Norwegian Air International route between Cork and Boston”. An interesting comment on the day before the WOW Air announcement!
In another interesting development, on the same day as WOW air Cork announcement, Norwegian announced the launch of a three times weekly service from London Gatwick to Reykjavik, departing on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Norwegian now serves over 40 business and leisure winter destinations from London Gatwick, Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham, with more than 969 000 seats available to book from the UK throughout winter.
The new route is scheduled to commence on 1st November and will be operated by Norwegian’s brand new 186 seat aircraft that will keep passengers connected in the skies with free inflight Wi-Fi.