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Icelandic carrier WOW air has selected Bristol Airport in south west England as its second destination in the UK, supporting the increasing point-to-point demand between the UK and Iceland and further enhancing its European feed into its growing transatlantic low-cost network to North America.
The low-fare carrier will introduce a three times weekly link between Bristol and its Keflavik International Airport hub from May 13, 2016 using an A320. This flight will connect via a short stopover in Reykjavik to the carrier’s long-haul flights to Baltimore, Boston and new routes starting in 2016 to Los Angeles and San Francisco in the United States and Montreal and Toronto in Canada.
“As one of our strongest markets we are delighted to continue to grow WOW air’s presence in the UK. Bringing our ultra-low-cost transatlantic model to Bristol will make flying to the US and Canada much easier for those in the South West and Wales,” said Skúli Mogensen, founder and Chief Executive Officer, WOW air.
The Icelandic carrier is taking advantage of Iceland’s geographical position to develop it as one of Europe’s first low-cost hubs, replicating the successful model used by Icelandair for many years. It will offer flights between Bristol and Reykjavik from just £39 and to the USA and Canada from just £99.
“One of our key messages at the Routes Europe and World Routes forums this year has been the scale of the transatlantic opportunity from the South West and Wales. The South West of the UK is one of the largest catchments in Europe without a direct transatlantic service, and we’re delighted that WOW air has recognised this opportunity and chosen Bristol as its first UK airport outside London.”Peter Downes
Head of Aviation, Bristol Airport
The airline became a pioneer of ultra-low-cost travel between Europe and North America when it debuted its flights into the US market earlier this year and will replicate this in Canada with its new flights to Montreal and Toronto from May 2016. Its recent growth is described by the carrier’s CEO, Skúli Mogensen as a “game changer for WOW air” as it seeks to cement itself as the “industry leader” in the ultra-low-cost long haul category.
“We hope our low fares will give holidaymakers the chance to travel further afield than previously planned, whilst enjoying great service, delivered with a smile,” added Mogensen.
WOW air was launched in November 2011 and expanded its offering the following year when it acquired the assets of Iceland Express. According to OAG schedule data it now offers regular year-round flights to ten destinations in Europe and in the peak months operates up to 70 flights per week as it adds seasonal departures to additional points. Alongside Bristol, London Gatwick is the only market it currently serves in the UK.
“One of our key messages at the Routes Europe and World Routes forums this year has been the scale of the transatlantic opportunity from the South West and Wales. The South West of the UK is one of the largest catchments in Europe without a direct transatlantic service, and we’re delighted that WOW air has recognised this opportunity and chosen Bristol as its first UK airport outside London," Peter Downes, Head of Aviation, Bristol Airport told Routesonline following the route announcement.
Currently, over a million people a year travel between the South West and Wales and North America, including an estimated 250,000 inbound visitors. The majority have flown to and from London airports to do so, clocking up additional time and costs in the process.
“2016 will see a further transformation in infrastructure and facilities at and around the airport, with a world-class £24 million security facility, on-site hotel, and new surface access links all planned for completion before the end of the year. We will be aiming to build on these developments with further exciting destination announcements next year," added Downes.
Bristol will be WOW air’s 25th destination following the announcement of Canadian and Californian routes in October and November respectively. This growth is expected to see the carrier more than double its traffic in 2016 to over 1.8 million passengers, up from approximately 840,000 this year.
WOW air’s expansion in the UK brings a second operator into the Bristol – Reykjavik market alongside the existing offer of easyJet. Iceland’s nature, including the Northern Lights and the hot springs, has always been a big attraction for visitors from across the UK and Icelandic locals also have a reputation of offering a warm welcome with the Nordic country voted as the friendliest nation on earth in a recent poll by World Economic Forum, but demand has been growing in recent years.
Alongside Bristol, easyJet also offers links to Iceland from Belfast, Edinburgh, London Gatwick, London Luton, London Stansted and Manchester. Icelandair also offers year round service to the UK from Iceland to London – Heathrow and Gatwick – Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and will add flights to Aberdeen next spring; while British Airways added flights to London Heathrow and Thomson Airways to London Gatwick and Manchester this year.
Demand data from Sabre shows how the 2008–2011 Icelandic financial crisis, a major economic and political event in Iceland, impacted passenger demand to the country from the UK in the last decade. Relative to the size of its economy, the collapse of all three of the country's major privately owned commercial banks, is the largest experienced by any country in economic history.
The banking system collapse was also compounded by the April 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull that forced the unprecedented closure of European airspace. However, the growth shows how air travel has rebounded and demand has increased to levels never previously witnessed.