By Bjorn Fehrm
August 23, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: WOW Air is the smallest LCC to offer long-haul services over the Atlantic. And it’s the best-placed.
AirAsia X’s CEO explained its early problems with flying long-haul LCC. It was flying too far. Ideal is sectors shorter than seven hours. Fly longer and aircraft/crew utilization suffers. You can only do one turn a day.
With a placement at Reykjavik, Iceland, WOW Air can collect traffic at six hours or less from both sides of the Atlantic. It then connects them over its hub in the middle.
WOW Air’s founder and CEO, Skuli Mogensen, outlines the airline’s philosophy in an interview with Business Insider:
“Our goal is to enable everybody to fly by offering the lowest fares on the market,” says Mogensen. “You shall be up front with customers, to avoid false expectations. Customers know there is no free food, water, IFE or Wi-Fi on our flights. Wi-Fi cost weight and thereby fuel. Therefore, we don’t have it.”
For its ultra-price conscious travelers, dividing the trans-Atlantic hop into two is no problem. Price is paramount. This is where WOW Air operates. The target customer is the air’s backpacker.
When Norwegian Air Shuttle announced it would fly UK to New York for $75 with its incoming Boeing 737 MAX 8, Mogensen announced flights at $69.90. This brought the final Norwegian introduction price to below $70 as well.
WOW Air flies to 33 destinations in Europe and the US, Figure 2. All traffic is routed over the airline’s Reykjavik hub.
With its placement, a large part of its sectors can be flown with standard Airbus A320 series aircraft. It’s all within its 3,000nm range.
Of the 33 destinations, only Miami, San Francisco and Los Angeles are beyond the six hour target from Reykjavik. For these destinations, the airline has three Airbus A330-300s, with the rest being A320s and A321s, Figure 3.
The short flights allow WOW Air to increase its utilization of both aircraft and crew beyond what competitors can do on the trans-Atlantic market.
The fleet will expand to 17 aircraft during 2017 and continue to 50 aircraft by 2020, according to Mogensen.
Mogensen is still the sole owner of the airline. Therefore, there are no public reports for the airline, only traffic information released by the airline.
Around 1.6m passengers traveled with the airline in 2016, up from 1.2m in 2015 and 0.7m the year before. The airline plans to transport 3m passengers during 2017. Mogensen wants to fly 6m passengers by 2020.