The Boeing 737 MAX has been slowly making its return in recent weeks. The type had been grounded since March 2019, but it’s set to feature prominently again for airlines by the time 2021 is over. Simple Flying spoke with Icelandair’s CEO, Bogi Nils Bogason, about how the jet will help open up doors for the flag carrier of Iceland.
A new age
Icelandic low-cost carrier WOW Air ceased operations in 2019. Since then, PLAY has been emerging in the country. With this new landscape forming, Icelandair is in a position to take advantage of new openings. The reintroduction of the 737 MAX comes during this transitional period. However, Bogason explains that it already had plans to open up opportunities with the MAX from the beginning. This was one of the reasons why it ordered the plane back in 2012.
The improved efficiency of the plane helps take the airline forward. There are notable updates from existing narrowbodies in the fleet.
“The MAX is a much more efficient aircraft than the 757, and it will open up new opportunities for our network with destinations that were not viable with the 757 but will become profitable when we are operating more efficient aircraft at a lower cost,” Bogason told Simple Flying.
“It will also give us opportunities in the off-season as we will be able to offer more frequency and new destinations, with more efficient aircraft. These are benefits that we were already seeing during the time we operated the MAX aircraft in our network before the grounding. Its efficiency exceeded our expectations, so we are very optimistic that the MAX will create opportunities for our network going forward.”
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Preparing for the year
The MAX will be focusing on operations within the airline’s core network while the company goes through its recovery phase. The airline may then add more services with the plane as the climate improves.
Icelandair’s summer schedule for 2021 is scaled back compared with 2019. However, this doesn’t mean that the carrier will permanently keep these services dropped. It is taking a cautious approach as the year progresses and we could see more 737 MAXs return as more routes resume.
Off the 32 destinations that it is planning to serve, Tenerife in the Canary Islands is listed, which is a new addition to its route network. Altogether, 22 of the destinations are in Europe, seven are in the United States, and three are across Canada.
A careful approach
Altogether, Icelandair had orders for 16 MAXs. The carrier had taken delivery of six units before the month of the grounding. So, there were still ten to be delivered. The airline made an agreement with Boeing in summer 2020 to decrease the order from ten to six and it is taking delivery of three of these in the coming spring.
The carrier previously completed a sale-and-leaseback on one of the planes and is now putting two more through this process. After that, the three further units will arrive by the beginning of next year. Hopefully, by the time these jets come, the industry is in a healthier climate for the MAX to take Icelandair into the next era in aviation.
What are your thoughts about Icelandair’s Boeing 737 MAX aircraft? Which new destinations do you think the airline will fly to with them? Let us know what you think in the comment section.