Two Icelandic carriers are now competing to prepare to launch flights to Asia for the first time.
Icelandair expects to offer direct flights from Keflavik to Delhi or Mumbai from autumn 2019.
According to the Icelandic travel agency Túristi.is, the airline’s chief executive Björgólfur Jóhannsson pledged that the company would fly to India, although nothing was mentioned about specific routes or start-up times. If launched, it will be the company’s first Asia route from Reykjavik’s Keflavik International Airport.
The distance from Keflavik to Mumbai is similar to the airline’s planned route to San Francisco, which begins this summer – about 10 hours.
At a presentation of Icelandair’s quarterly report last week, the airline revealed other possible Asia routes in an overview of the scope of the company’s three aircraft types, Boeing 737 MAX 8, the 757-200 and the 767-300ER.
A map showed Dubai as an option for the 757, while Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo are potential destinations for the 767.
The news comes as WOW air also promises to introduce routes between Iceland and Asia, its chief executive Skuli Mogensen revealing that the company would present the first routes there during May.
While both Icelandair and WOW both connect Europe with North America via Iceland, the traffic flow to Asia is primarily expected to be Asians and Americans taking the opportunity for a stopover in Iceland.
Tourism reaches further
In an article in India’s Economic Times last year, direct India-Iceland air connectivity was speculated to be “likely by 2018”. Iceland’s Ambassador to India Thorir Ibsen made the comment during a media briefing, saying that an Iceland-based private carrier may provide the service.
Tourism, he said, was one of the biggest contributors to Iceland’s economy, and India’s share in it had risen steadily over the last three years.
“The two countries may have direct air connectivity by the fall of 2018. A private Iceland carrier may start operating,” Ibsen told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
Although India’s and Iceland’s political relations date back to 1972, it was only in 2006 that Iceland opened an embassy in New Delhi.