DALLAS — Icelandic ultra-low-cost-carrier (ULCC) WOW air will begin seasonal nonstop service from Keflavik (Reykjavik) to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) in May 2018, continuing its breakneck expansion in the United States. The route will be operated three times per week using an Airbus A330-300 seating 342 passengers (23 Y+ / 319Y). It will run during the IATA Northern summer period, flying overnight from Keflavik on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and returning overnight from DFW on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
The move comes just two weeks after WOW, the second-largest carrier in Iceland, announced new service to St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Detroit from Keflavik, each operated four times per week with Airbus A321 equipment. The carrier also serves 20 (soon to be 22 with the addition of Tel Aviv and London Stansted) destinations in Europe and 10 in North America. The carrier’s other North American destinations include Toronto and Montreal in Canada. In the United States meanwhile, WOW currently serves Baltimore-Washington, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco.
The newest phase of expansion, encompassing DFW and the four other cities mentioned above, has a distinctly different tenor than WOW’s initial growth in the US. Of WOW’s existing destinations, all but Pittsburgh are substantial hubs for inbound tourist traffic (Baltimore serves the Washington D.C. metro area). This means that WOW can draw on outbound traffic from these cities for passengers visiting Europe, but it can also draw on demand from Europeans wanting to visit those cities.
The more recent set of destinations (including DFW) by contrast, aren’t really substantial inbound tourist draws for Europeans. This means that WOW will be reliant entirely on outbound tourist demand from these cities to sustain flying. And that is where the DFW route may be tougher sledding than the other destinations. While WOW only has to fill ~200 seats in those other markets, it has to fill 320+ in DFW. And unlike in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh, there is substantial nonstop competition from the local hubbed carrier (American) to Europe. Detroit (via Delta) is an analogous situation, but WOW has to fill a much smaller plane in the Detroit market. There is certainly a huge and affluent population in DFW for WOW to draw upon, but it will need to be careful about the potential response from American.
Still, the growth from WOW air has been breathtaking, to say the least. After launching service in November 2011, it has now matched the US route portfolio of full-service rival Icelandair (founded in 1937), which also serves 13 destinations in the US. The growth of both carriers is a testament to the increased leverage of Keflavik as a stopover point for US – Europe flying. And increasingly the two carriers are brushing up against each other in American markets. DFW and Detroit were certainly on Icelandair’s list for expansion, and there may increasingly be a bit of an arms race in the US – Iceland market.