Icelandair cancels 2018 Edmonton flights for 3 months

Icelandair's inaugural flight from Reykjavik touched down at EIA Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Ross Neitz, Global News

Edmonton’s direct flight to Reykjavik is being cancelled for a couple of months this winter due to lack of demand.

In a statement to 630 CHED, Icelandair confirmed the news.

“It was decided by our scheduling committee to suspend flights from Edmonton until March 19, 2018 due to lack of demand,” spokesperson Michael Raucheisen said on Friday. “We look forward to returning to Edmonton in the spring when we will be able to better serve the Edmonton community.”

Edmonton International Airport (EIA) said Icelandair was removing 29 Edmonton flights from its 2018 “in the deep winter period of Jan. 10 to March 19 when passenger demand is the lowest.”

The cancelled flights make up just 2.5 per cent of the EIA’s yearly transatlantic flights, which are offered by KLM year-round and WestJet seasonally, in addition to Icelandair.

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“When Icelandair first started, there was limited year-round competition in Edmonton. Since then, Edmonton’s European services have grown substantially,” EIA said.

Before official confirmation came, arguably the airline’s best Edmonton customer over the past four years said seasonal cancellations were coming.

“I’ve been speaking to our supplier in Iceland, Fishland in Iceland,” said Pat Batten, the owner operator of west-end fish retailer Oceans Odyssey. “They’re saying the last flight to touch down in Edmonton will be Jan. 7 and the first flight coming back will be Sunday the 25th of March.”

Mayor Don Iveson heard the rumours along with everyone else.

“We’ve heard reports that Icelandair is making some schedule adjustments,” he said at an LRT funding announcement Friday. “We understand that’s not limited to Edmonton; that they’re making adjustments across their whole network.

“I know a lot of Edmontonians have really enjoyed their trips and stop-overs to Iceland as well as the connectivity through to many destinations in Europe. A seasonal cancellation when an airline is going through restructuring is not uncommon.”

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EIA says overall, seats on transatlantic flights out of Edmonton have grown 26 per cent in the last three years. In 2016 alone, there was a 25 per cent year-over-year increase in international inbound passengers (tourists) using European flights.

“While all of the new services… are good for travellers and provide greater choice, they also deliver more competition into the market and to the airlines themselves,” the EIA explained in a statement. “Based on these new market developments, airlines will make choices on their flight schedules throughout the year — as Icelandair did this summer when it increased its Edmonton service to seven times per week — and decrease frequency when fewer passengers are booking. These changes are typical of an airline service market and are in motion around the world.”

During the busy travel season in the summer, Icelandair had six direct flights a week. During the off season, they’ve been reduced, said Batten, who uses the cargo service to have fresh fish delivered tarmac to tarmac.

“We love the fact that they fillet our fish, they put it on the plane and six hours later we have the fish coming off the plane,” she said.

Icelandair will still have six flights a week to Toronto, so Batten will wind up getting her deliveries another way, as her shipments will be transferred to WestJet at Pearson. She’s been told it’ll double the travel time to 12 hours.

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“I don’t think Icelandair understands how Edmonton embraces them. We here have really celebrated having Icelandair and I know from my customers — I have people coming in all of the time saying, ‘we just got back from Iceland’ or ‘we’re just going to Iceland,’ and they enjoyed the Iceland hospitality that came with the airline.”

Batten got her info from the inside. She said her supplier at Fishland is married to an Icelandair pilot, so he confirmed the dates.

“Icelandair is a great airline partner of ours and will continue to be moving forward,” Edmonton Tourism director Renee Williams said. “We know that Edmonton’s European air services have experienced significant growth over the last year and we will continue to support the transatlantic flights and drive demand for the destination year-round, with a focus on winter.”

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