Return Of The MAX: How Is Icelandair Using The Aircraft?

The Boeing 737 MAX is now the smallest jet aircraft in Icelandair’s fleet. The airline has nine MAXs, of which six are active. The type is used on 24 routes this week, as far as Seattle – the world’s longest non-stop B737 route. We explore Icelandair’s use of the MAX.

Icelandair MAX
The MAX has 37% of Icelandair flights from Keflavik this week. Photo: Boeing.

The MAX has quickly become important

In the week beginning August 16th, Icelandair has 196 outbound flights from its Keflavik hub, analyzing schedules information provided by the carrier to data experts OAG shows. This is just over half of the number of flights it had in the same week in 2019. Last month, Icelandair said it anticipates flying up to 80% of its 2019 capacity in the year’s fourth quarter.

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The Boeing 757-200 has 65 of these 196 departures and remains the most-used aircraft in the carrier’s operation, just as it has for so many years. However, the MAX 8, the smallest jet aircraft in Icelandair’s fleet, has grown significantly. Indeed, it is now virtually neck-and-neck with the B757.

  1. B757-200: 65 departures this week
  2. B737 MAX 8: 60
  3. B767-300ER: 41
  4. B757-300: 17
  5. B737 MAX 9: 14
Icelandair MAX
When writing this article, Icelandair’s sole active MAX 9 is en route to Munich. This follows an overnight flight from Minneapolis. Image:

Icelandair’s MAX fleet

Icelandair received its first MAX 8 in 2018 and its first MAX 9 the following year. Now, nine MAXs are currently in its fleet, of which six are -8s and three -9s. They’re designed, in part, to replace its 183/184-seat B757-200s, which shows have an average of 24.3 years. And the MAX 9, at least, has a similar number of seats, together with much greater fuel efficiency:

  • B737 MAX 8s: 160 seats, with 144 in economy and 16 in business
  • B737 MAX 9s: 178 seats, with 162 in economy and 16 in business

Not all of its MAXs are operational, however. Relating data to movements, five MAX 8s are active: TF-ICE (the first delivered); TF-ICN; TF-ICO; TF-ICU; and TF-ICY. And only one MAX 9 is active: TF-ICA.

Icelandair MAX
Icelandair has three weekly MAX flights to Boston. These are daytime flights in both directions designed for point-to-point passengers. They leave Keflavik at 09:20, arrive in Boston at 10:50, depart at 11:50, and arrive back at 20:50. Icelandair’s main Boston service is operated by the B767-300ER. Photo: John Taggart via Wikimedia.

24 MAX routes this week

Icelandair has scheduled its MAX aircraft to operate 24 routes from its Keflavik hub this week. These have an average sector length of 1,872 miles. The type serves seven destinations in North America, including Seattle (3,622 miles) and Orlando (3,534 miles), the world’s longest and second-longest non-stop 737 routes. Some 40% of Icelandair’s North America flights this week are by the MAX.

Icelandair's MAX routes week starting August 16th 2021
The B737-9 is used on six routes, including to Chicago, Minneapolis, and London. Meanwhile, the -8 is used on 22 routes, including Orlando and Seattle. Image: OAG Mapper.

Where is served?

Despite the importance of North America, the Danish capital has the most flights this week. Of these 24 routes, only Newark, Hamburg, Helsinki, Manchester, and Zurich are solely by the MAX. Icelandair began Newark in 2013 and in 2019 it had an 84% seat load factor, T-100 data shows.

  • Copenhagen: 11 MAX departures this week
  • Chicago O’Hare: 7
  • Newark: 7
  • Minneapolis: 5
  • Amsterdam: 5
  • Toronto: 4
  • Oslo: 4
  • Helsinki: 4
  • Brussels: 4
  • London Heathrow: 3
  • Boston: 3
  • Zurich: 2
  • Milan Malpensa: 2
  • Hamburg: 2
  • Frankfurt: 2
  • Seattle: 1
  • Munich: 1
  • Orlando: 1
  • Manchester: 1
  • Madrid: 1
  • Geneva: 1
  • Paris CDG: 1
  • Billund: 1
  • Berlin: 1

Have you flown the Icelandair’s MAXs yet? If so, share your thoughts in the comments.