Where Will Icelandair Fly Its 737 MAX Aircraft This Summer?

Icelandair has scheduled its Boeing 737 MAXs on 22 routes in mid-August, with Boston and Copenhagen to be the most-served destinations. Icelandair’s Keflavik hub is alive and well, although the carrier has been aided by Iceland reopening to vaccinated travelers, which is key for those visiting the country.

Icelandair's MAX
Icelandair has scheduled its MAX 8s and 9s on 22 routes in mid-August. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia.

Icelandair has scheduled its Boeing 737 MAX 8s and 9s on 22 routes in mid-August. Boston and Copenhagen are down for 10 weekly departures each, the most, while Newark should see seven and Chicago, some 2,944 miles away, five.

Icelandair 737 MAX
The MAX will play an increasingly important role in Icelandair’s network. Photo: John Taggart via Wikimedia.

Boeing 737 MAX 9s scheduled

Although it may change, Icelandair’s MAX 9s are down for 13 routes, with the order by expected weekly departures being:

  1. Boston
  2. Malpensa
  3. Newark
  4. Dublin
  5. Helsinki
  6. Manchester
  7. Amsterdam
  8. Copenhagen
  9. Frankfurt
  10. Gatwick
  11. Heathrow
  12. Madrid
  13. Chicago
Icelandair MAX routes
Icelandair has scheduled its Boeing 737 MAXs on 22 routes in this mid-August week, although it could change. Here, green = MAX 8; orange = MAX 9; and while = both are scheduled. Image: OAG.

12 destinations in all across North America

Across all aircraft, Icelandair will serve 12 destinations in North America in mid-August, with 10 airports in the USA and two in Canada. Boston and Seattle will be the joint-highest on an airport-basis with 10 weekly departures each. Of course, it’s a different story at city-pair level, with New York number-one with 14 departures from both New York JFK and Newark served.

Keflavik to…Weekly departures (week starting August 13th 2021)
Washington Dulles7
New York JFK7
Chicago O'Hare5

Icelandair’s North America network will have 75 departures in this week, down by 44% over the same week in pre-pandemic 2019. This was from both route cuts (Anchorage, Edmonton, Kansas City, Montreal, Philadelphia, and San Francisco) and frequency reductions at those that remain. The latter is obviously mainly from coronavirus and somewhat from reducing the number of waves each day at its Keflavik hub.

Icelandair B767
Icelandair expects to use its B767-300ERs on eight routes in mid-August, half to the USA and half across Europe. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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24 routes across Europe

Some 24 international routes comprise Icelandair’s Europe network in this August week, with Copenhagen top, as always, because of the links between Iceland and Denmark. Meanwhile, Barcelona has just a once-weekly offering, with the Spanish city one of the very few scheduled destinations that is for point-to-point demand only rather than connections. It is therefore timed for this.

Keflavik to...Weekly departures (week starting August 13th 2021)
Paris CDG14
London Heathrow14
London Gatwick4
Milan Malpensa4
Tenerife South2

While its Europe departures are down by 29% over 2019, Heathrow and Berlin both have the same number of flights now as then. And Frankfurt is down by just two a week. Both Heathrow and Frankfurt are among a number of routes that have flights that arrive into Keflavik late evening for point-to-point demand, supplementing earlier-in-the-day core services.

Icelandair's route network in August 2021
Icelandair’s route network from Keflavik in the week starting August 13th, 2021. Image: OAG.

Keflavik hub

While point-to-point (non-connecting) travel is significant to Icelandair, so too are connections. For this, it has a highly well-timed wave structure, where one wave has one arrival bank and one departure bank, as shown below.

Icelandair's Keflavik hub
How Icelandair times its flights at its Keflavik hub in mid-August. Source: OAG.

Early arrivals come from North America and feed Europe-wide services. These then return late afternoon, before services to North America depart. There are exceptions, notably the late evening arrivals for point-to-point demand. The hub works as in this example:

  • Seattle-Keflavik: 1550-0615+1
  • Keflavik-Zurich: 0720-1305
  • Zurich-Keflavik: 1405-1555
  • Keflavik-Seattle: 1705-1755
Icelandair B757
Icelandair’s B757s are still the carrier’s backbone. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying.

Overnighting in North America

Eagle-eyed readers will see that Icelandair’s departure from Seattle leaves before it arrives. Long routes (Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, Orlando, Denver) remain overnight in North America before leaving the next day. This increases costs, although it’s offset by Icelandair’s B757s having meager ownership costs. And it’d be nowhere near as costly as it would be if they flew right back with no feed opportunities.

Icelandair to Seattle
Icelandair’s bunching is fairly common. Image: Google Flights.

One consequence of having so few waves is more bunching of departures, especially during summertime. The use of many narrowbodies doesn’t help.

Will you be visiting or traveling through Iceland this year? Comment below!