WOW: Every Mid-Sized City In America is Getting a Flight to Europe

Yesterday Icelandair announced new service between Cleveland and Reykjavik, Iceland four times weekly starting in May. Of course many people use Iceland as a connecting point to elsewhere in Europe, and Icelandair often has good fares. Plus the hop across the pond to Iceland is fairly short, get out and stretch your legs.


Cleveland No Longer Needs United for Transatlantic

Icelandair is going to add plenty more dots to its map since it expects to take delivery of 16 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft capable of flying transatlantic from much of the Eastern portion of the U.S. to Iceland.

So far we’ve mostly seen discount airlines flying Boeing 787s across the Pond. That plane was made for ‘long thin’ routes, connecting medium-sized cities non-stop. No one was going to try Austin – London until the 787 made it economical, and it proved the route.


Wow Air, Copyright: zhukovsky / 123RF Stock Photo

The 737 MAX allows Norwegian to create a focus city at Newburgh-Stewart outside New York with several transatlantic destinations.

For Wow Air Airbus’ long range narrowbodies are a key tool as well. They’ve just announced 4 dots to their own route map with Airbus A321 aircraft.

  • Detroit – Reykjavik, Iceland effective April 26
  • Cleveland – Reykjavik, Iceland effective May 4
  • Cincinnati – Reykjavik, Iceland effective May 10
  • St. Louis – Reykjavik, Iceland effective May 17

Everyone except Buffalo gets a transatlantic flight. Cleveland will have more than one airline flying to Iceland with onward connections.

The ability to fly long distances with smaller, more fuel efficient aircraft means more cities on the US East Coast with transatlantic flights. These ultra low cost airlines are driving down fares to Europe, and allowing connecting options. Meanwhile the ability to fly with smaller planes means more point-to-point flying as well bypassing hubs.

Is it any wonder that planes like the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 are having such difficulty?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Definitely going to try out the DTW route. Might want to correct the WOW pic, it’s not a B787, rather A321.

  2. Hi Gary, I think you mean Cleveland will have more than one airline flying to Iceland with onward connections (Icelandair)

  3. I connected through Keflavik last month and it is a zoo. All the connecting flights arrive at the same time, swap passengers, and the departing flights all go simultaneously. The airport in Iceland looked pretty overwhelmed to me. Unless they really expand it, they are going to have unhappy campers.

  4. Good move by WOW. D8/DY have hit them on the direct flights to the east coast (why would you connect in KEF when you can go direct for same price). These midwest cities are outside the range of the narrowbody TATL flights.

  5. Sucks that their narrowbodies dont have any bigseats available… In most of these cities they’d have a monopoly on the semi-long-haul market, but that’s still a long enough flight that having more space would be worthwhile.

  6. While I’m a big fan of this news (and still waiting for the MCI-KEF announcement as we are mid-sized Midwestern city) is there really that much demand (O&D) for STL-KEF-Europe ? I guess if the price point is good enough it might not matter. I assume they plan to rely on regional feed from Southwest to help support such a route. Of course I guess you could ask the same question of many mid sized cities and yet I fly MCI-Europe at least annually.

  7. The reason (in my view) that these cities were picked is that they have or had trans-Atlantic service. MCI, IND and CMH now have more passenger traffic than CVG, but WOW is playing it relatively safe by picking these four.

  8. After flying transoceanic F award seats for years we opted instead for a WOW flight direct from SFO to KEF in September. For $300 a r/t ticket plus roughly $100 in upgrades we chose the best seats and checked our luggage (carry-on requirements are strict). The equipment was modern and pitch comfortable. If I had to take another 10 hour flight in coach or to choose between this and an F connection through continental EU, WOW is not a bad way to go.

    The 25 minute taxi ride to our campervan rental location in Reykjavik cost $165!

  9. Charlotte?? We need someone to break the AA monopoly. Tired of flying to NYC or MIA just to get cheaper flights to Europe or South America.

  10. The rush by small European low cost airlines to fly to America is probably the most interesting topic in commercial aviation these days (now that the sheiks seem to be running out of money for their wild expansion). Few in the industry think this will work, which is why the Southwest, Ryanair and Easyjet have long stayed away. So far, the results have been as expected: awful. Norwegian, which was the first mover, might go broke by next year if they don’t change their strategy (their CFO resigned this summer after frightening revenue numbers) . There are lots of good reasons why the math doesn’t work, and the lack of business travellers is probably the biggest reason.
    Given this reality, I think it’s better to fly on these money-losing flights sooner rather than later. And even better if you can get a price-match on a more reliable and established airline, especially if they throw in perks like free luggage and food.

  11. every mid-sized city except Buffalo? I guess Columbus, Indy, Milwaukee, Memphis, Dayton, KC, Louisville, San Antonio, etc. have dropped off the maps?

  12. @jessica – that’s a reference to my claim, much disputed by readers, that buffalo wasn’t an obvious fit for this kind of service

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