Airline Weekly

Delta’s New Iceland Routes Portend More Global Expansion as Vaccines Prompt Fewer Restrictions

“Have vaccine, will travel,” appear to be buzzwords in the network planning department at Delta Air Lines as the carrier adds flights to Iceland following the country’s decision to reopen to vaccinated travelers.

The Atlanta-based carrier will add new service between Boston and Reykjavík from May 20, and resume flights between both Minneapolis/St. Paul and New York JFK and the Icelandic capital the same month. All three routes will be flown with Boeing 757-200 aircraft. The move comes less than two weeks after Iceland announced that it would reopen without restrictions to all non-European travelers who are fully vaccinated.

“As confidence in travel rises, we hope more countries continue reopening to vaccinated travelers,” said Joe Esposito, senior vice president of network planning at Delta, on Friday.

Delta’s move portends a new trend among international airline planning: jumping at markets as they remove Covid-19 travel restrictions. European carriers are already doing this within the 25-nation EU bloc as individual members ease limits. And with many would-be travelers eager to get out — that “pent up demand” nearly every airline executive likes to mention — more such international routes seem inevitable.

The situation is something of a Field of Dreams conundrum for countries. Build it and they will come, or remove restrictions for vaccinated travelers and airlines — and hopefully visitors — will pile in. This can be good news for economies hard-hit by the pandemic but also raises safety questions until the vast majority of a population is vaccinated, which is often said to be at least more than 70 percent of adults.

Notable in Iceland’s case is that American travelers can arrive with just their Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination card for verification. This comes as organizations race to develop a new breed of digital health passports that can prove a traveler meets local rules, be it with a vaccine or negative Covid-19 test, electronically. While many airlines have embraced these solutions to streamline often complicated verification procedures, governments have yet to agree on a set of standards and few have signed on to one of the myriad of platforms.

“We think we have no choice but getting this type of solution,” Air France Operational Performance Director Emmanuelle Ferracci told Airline Weekly on the carrier’s AOKpass trial earlier in March. “If we don’t find any solution… then we will have some congestion on the boarding, and this will be a nightmare in terms of customer experience.”

While Air France and Delta are close partners, the U.S. carrier has trialed the CLEAR Health Pass on select flights to Hawaii to test the technology. The airline plans to share more details on its digital health passport plans “soon,” said spokesperson Drake Castañeda.

Delta purchased a five-percent stake in CLEAR, which also provides biometric screening at airports and other venues across the U.S., in 2016.

The carrier’s expanded Iceland service will operate under its transatlantic joint venture with Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic Airways. However, many routes between Europe and the U.S. remain suspended because of Covid-19 travel restrictions. While summer schedules remain in flux and are likely to change, the four carriers’ combined transatlantic capacity will be down 13 percent in the third quarter compared to 2019, according to Cirium schedules.

Note: Story updated with comment from Delta.

Up Next

AW Daily

Aeromexico Awaits U.S. and Mexico Agreement Over ‘Differences’ in Safety Rating Upgrade

Aeromexico is eager to add new U.S. flights and destinations and resume its close partnership with Delta Air Lines, all of which were key elements of its Chapter 11 restructuring that concluded last year. But it can do none of those things until the U.S. and Mexican governments come to an agreement over "differences" in…

AW Daily

Airline Execs Dismiss Slowdown Fears, Say It is ‘Best Recession’ Industry Ever Faced

Business is good for airlines, except where it's not. That was the word in the halls and meeting rooms of the industry's largest annual gathering, the IATA Annual General Meeting, this week. The organization has upped its airline financial outlook for the year to $22.4 billion in operating profits, a seven-fold increase from the $3.2…

AW Daily

Emirates President Says Airlines Must ‘Do Better’ to Develop Sustainable Fuels, Meet Climate Goals

Emirates President Tim Clark called for the airline industry to "do better" and put more money towards the development of sustainable aviation fuels as part of the global push to decarbonize commercial aviation. "If we rely on government, if we rely on other entities to do things, we may be waiting a long time," Clark…

AW Daily

Turkish Airlines Maintains Bullish Growth Objectives Despite Aircraft Order Delay

A delay to the plan by Turkish Airlines to acquire 600 new aircraft has not dampened its ambitious growth objectives, including an intention to add numerous new destinations around the world and spin off budget subsidiary Anadolujet. The Star Alliance carrier postponed by two months the order that will be split between Airbus and Boeing…

AW Daily

ANA Gains Traffic From U.S.-China Dispute Over Nonstop Flights

Japan's All Nippon Airways has seen a jump in passengers traveling between the U.S. and China as geopolitical tension keeps nonstop flights between the two countries at historic lows. ANA is seeing "new demand" from travelers who transit its Tokyo hubs on trips between the U.S. and China, President and CEO Shinichi Inoue said at…

Exit mobile version