Can St. Louis support a non-stop route to Iceland? How about Cleveland, Cincinnati and Detroit?
Icelandic budget carrier WOW Air thinks so, and – with fares that begin at less than $100 one-way – it’s betting those Midwest markets will be profitable additions to its fast-growing U.S. network.
WOW Air announced service from the four cities on Wednesday, an expansion that will give it a total of 12 U.S. destinations.
WOW’s new routes will launch this spring, with tickets going on sale Wednesday. One-way fares to Iceland will start at $99.99 from all four cities. Connecting flights to WOW’s other European destinations begin at $149.99.
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“We’re very excited about these cities,” WOW Air founder and CEO Skúli Mogensen said to USA TODAY’s Today in the Sky blog.
Asked if there was demand to support the new non-stops to Iceland, especially from the smaller markets included in Wednesday’s announcement, Mogensen struck a bullish tone.
“We like the region. We think there’s opportunity there. We think it’s under-served,” he said to Today in the Sky, adding that the company is “very data driven” in seeking out prospective new markets.
Mogensen predicted the carrier’s budget fares will help boost demand, catering to pent-up demand for cheap trans-Atlantic flights.
“With those kind of prices, we have seen in other markets that we enter that we have stimulated the market significantly,” he said.
In other words, if fares drop below a certain threshold, people who otherwise would not consider traveling to Europe will do so because of the inexpensive fares.
WOW’s Detroit service will begin April 26. The three other routes will launch in May: Cleveland flights begin May 4, Cincinnati flights on May 10, and St. Louis flights on May 17.
On all four routes, WOW will fly four flights a week on single-aisle Airbus A321 aircraft to its hub at the Keflavik airport near Reykjavik. Connecting itineraries will be available to more than two dozen destinations in Europe.
“Our unique opportunity is to use Iceland as a hub. We can then distribute the traffic to our main destinations in Europe, be it London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Berlin, Copenhagen, etc.,” Mogensen said. “That’s really the key. Instead of having a single point-to-point flight, we actually give you a very affordable flight to multiple destinations in Europe via Iceland.”
From three of the new cities – Cleveland, Cincinnati and St. Louis – WOW will be one of the few airlines with a trans-Atlantic option. From St. Louis, WOW will be the only carrier flying to Europe. At Cincinnati, only Delta flies to Europe with flights to Paris Charles de Gaulle. And in Cleveland, WOW’s only trans-Atlantic competitor will be national rival Icelandair, which interestingly just announced its own Cleveland-Reykjavik service on Tuesday.
“We welcome competition from all airlines,” Mogensen said about the fresh competition from Icelandair. “No other airline has offered as low fares as we have done over the Atlantic. We will continue to add destinations in the U.S. in the next weeks and as always offer the lowest fares.”
WOW Air first began flying to the U.S. just in 2015, when it launched service from Baltimore/Washington (BWI) and Boston. While its earliest U.S. destinations were focused on the East and West coasts, WOW’s four newest cities continue its recent expansion in the interior of the country. Most recently, the airline begin flying from both Chicago O’Hare and Pittsburgh earlier this year.
With the new Midwest additions, WOW’s full line-up of U.S. gateways includes BWI, Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and San Francisco. In Canada, WOW flies from Montreal and Toronto.