Icelandair is part of a distinctive business model. It is the largest subsidiary of the Icelandair Group that also contains travel companies, hotels and ground services. Nevertheless, this eclectic mix has proven extremely successful. Underpinning the success is a constant evaluation of potential new destinations. Most recently, the carrier has been opening up the Canadian market, sensing strong opportunities on the trans-Atlantic route and exploiting a natural, northern-latitudes connection.
Only slightly further south, flights to Portland, Oregon, will start in May 2015. Andrés Jónsson, general manager for Icelandair in the UK, is bullish about the prospects for this service as there are few direct flights to the city out of Europe. It is this strategy, Jónsson explains, that has also seen the carrier choose to name Birmingham (BHX) as its fifth UK gateway, beginning February, 2015.
“Birmingham airport is well located between London and Manchester but has a lack of connections to North America,” he says. “Our service will be the fastest way to go to 8 out of our 14 destinations in North America from BHX. We have seen big growth in tourist numbers into Iceland from our destinations across the UK and believe BHX fits well within our portfolio for Iceland and North America.”
Jónsson says that for many of Icelandair’s routes, the carrier represents the fastest way to travel. Half of the 14 destinations out of London Gatwick and Birmingham provide the shortest trip duration for the destination. Six flights out of Glasgow and four from Manchester are equally expeditious.
The airline has many other selling points too. There is a refreshingly generous baggage allowance, for example – two 23kg bags plus 10kg carry-on is allowed to North America for economy passengers. Passengers can also stopover in Iceland for up to a week with no additional air fare. But if speed is more your thing, Keflavik International Airport offers short connection times of 60-90 minutes.
Indeed, Guðjón Arngrímsson, VP Corporate Communications, Icelandair, says the airport is playing its part in the airline’s success. “We are constantly working with our partners to strengthen our product and it seems to be working quite well,” he notes. “Our home airport in Iceland is growing with us at a steady rate.” To maintain its profitable path, Icelandair will be exploring all available distribution channels to ensure every customer is served is the most appropriate manner. “Icelandair has been in the market for 70 years and we have a good long history with the travel trade while our online sales have also developed very well,” says Jónsson.
“Our aim is to continue to grow within all channels and we have close cooperation with tour operators and travel agents,” he continues. “Our destinations in North America and gateways out of the UK have been growing fast for the last five years. We can experience different opportunities within each channel to serve our destinations.
“We think it is fantastic how social media is making companies rethink how they interact with the market. We try to incorporate our brand values in a conversation that benefits and interests customers as well as ourselves.”