Icelanders build links to Vilnius and Kaunas01.03.2012, 12:23
In a surprise burst of activity, two Icelandic airlines have announced summertime direct links between Reykjavik and Lithuanian airports – first direct connections linking the two distant countries, writes news2biz.com
WOW air, an upstart Icelandic airline that will commence operation on 1 June, has included Kaunas as its only Baltic destination in the initial 13-city flight schedule. Reykjavik-Kaunas-Reykjavik flights will take place on Mondays twice per month.
The first one is scheduled for 11 June and the season will end on 2 September.
"The Lithuania idea originated af-ter talks with the 2,000-strong Lithuanian community in Iceland, second biggest expat community after Poles (we will fly to Warsaw and Krakow). Most of them live west of Kaunas, hence our choice of the destination. We also consulted them about the most appropriate schedule and even arrival/departure times," says Baldur Oddur Baldursson, CEO of WOW air, to news2biz.
With the expat community support in place, WOW air is now in talks with tourism agencies in both countries to identify demand in this sec-tor. "We are open to new developments – maybe we will be able to build a denser schedule. Anyway, we do plan one-off flights during the Christmas season and other holi-days," Baldursson adds.
WOW air will operate two Airbus A320s leased from Avion Express, the Vilnius-based charter and aircraft leasing company owned by Avion Capital Partners through French-based Eyjafjoll SAS investment firm.
Differently from Iceland Express that will fly to Vilnius, our Airbus aircraft provide more legroom because we took out 12 seats to have 168 seats," Baldursson adds.
David Masson, a partner at Avion Capital Partners, is also sitting on WOW air's board, not as representative of his firm but as an experienced aviation businessman.
Meanwhile, Iceland Express will link Reykjavik with Vilnius on Tuesdays during the 26 June-28 August period, also with an Airbus A320 (leased from a Czech airline). Iceland Express expects to carry 3,000 pas-sengers during the season.
"Obviously, the Icelandic airlines see demand in tourist traffic during the high tourism season. One or two monthly flights is not what could attract business travellers," says Simonas Bartkus, head of commerce department at Vilnius Airport and a long-time observer of the local aviation industry, to news2biz.