Icelandair Is Happy With Its Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft

Icelandair has reported a loss of $68 million for the first half of 2021 but is keenly looking to the future as it sees the first signs of a turnaround. The airline is planning to fly up to 80% of its 2019 capacity in the fourth quarter, if demand continues to grow. Notably, Icelandair has sung the praises of its newly inducted 737 MAX, and could even be eyeing an order for more.

Icelandair MAX
Icelandair is pleased with the performance of the MAX. Photo: Icelandair

Positive changes at Icelandair

Despite reporting a comprehensive loss of $68 million for the first half of 2021, Icelandair has reasons to be cheerful about the future. The airline says that there have been definite signs of a turnaround in recent months, aided by the opening of Icelandic borders to fully vaccinated travelers. It is operating around 15% of its 2019 capacity right now, but expects this to ramp up to 70-80% by the fourth quarter.

And it’s not just positive changes in activity that are pleasing Icelandair. The airline has also taken delivery of three new 737 MAX aircraft in the most recent quarter, taking its total fleet to nine aircraft. Seven are already in service, with the other two expected to come into use in August. Icelandair is very pleased with the performance of the MAX to date, noting in its earnings release that,

“The aircraft is even more technically reliable and fuel efficient than originally anticipated with a payload range exceeding prior expectations making its suitability for Icelandair’s route network outstanding. The aircraft moreover supports the Group’s environmental strategy, which is focused on reducing carbon emissions, ensuring responsible environmental management, and driving sustainable procurement.”

Icelandair MAX
The MAX has been performing even better than expected. Photo: Icelandair

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Eyeing an order for more

Icelandair is so happy with its MAX, it is eagerly anticipating deliveries of more of the type, and could even be set to order additional aircraft in the future. It said,

“The Group will take delivery of three additional MAX aircraft in winter 2021/2022. Favorable post-COVID market conditions may result in further additions to the fleet the feasibility of which is currently being explored.”

Icelandair was impacted by the MAX grounding, and reached a settlement with Boeing in August 2020 for the damages caused by the 22-month long issue. Back then, the airline agreed with Boeing to cancel several of its aircraft orders, reducing the purchase agreement from 16 planes to 12.

Boeing 737 MAX 8
The MAX are seen as replacements for the aging 757s. Photo: Boeing

The remaining three aircraft from that original order in 2013 are set to be delivered in the coming months. The airline is expecting one 737 MAX 8 and one 737 MAX 9 to arrive in the fourth quarter of 2021, with the final 737 MAX 8 due to be delivered in the first quarter of 2022.

These aircraft are set to replace the airline’s aging 757s, of which it still has 20. Some of these aircraft are over 30 years of age, and the airline has been keen to modernize its fleet for some time. With the MAX proving to be a reliable workhorse with better than expected efficiency, we could well see more MAX ordered by Icelandair in the coming months.

MAX 9s approved for Viasat WiFi

With the MAX 9 now part of Icelandair’s fleet, Icelandair is ready to bring its high-speed Viasat WiFi to passengers on these aircraft. The Viasat solution has been installed on the MAX 9 earlier this year, but was unable to be activated until the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) was granted by EASA. This certification has now been received, clearing the way for the MAX 9s to join the MAX 8s in offering WiFi connectivity to all its passengers.

Icelandair MAX 9
The MAX 9s will join the MAX 8s in offering high-speed, Viasat-powered WiFi. Photo: Viasat

Don Buchman, Vice President of Commercial Aviation at Viasat, commented,

“We are honored to work alongside the highly motivated Icelandair team in accomplishing this major milestone. As passengers increasingly return to air travel, the importance of great inflight Wi-Fi is paramount, and Icelandair is providing customers a great connectivity experience so they can do what they want online while in the air.”

All Viasat-enabled aircraft will be installed by April 2022, giving passengers at-home quality internet access from gate-to-gate.

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