Icelandair has announced its newest destination in the United States, and it seems like a logical enough add to the carrier’s network.
Icelandair adds Keflavik to Detroit flight in May 2023
Icelandair will be launching a new seasonal route between Keflavik, Iceland (KEF), and Detroit, United States (DTW). Specifically, the airline will operate the route 4x weekly between May 18 and October 30, 2023, with the following schedule:
FI873 Keflavik to Detroit departing 4:55PM arriving 7:20PM
FI872 Detroit to Keflavik departing 8:30PM arriving 6:30AM (+1 day)
The 2,792-mile flight is blocked at 6hr25min westbound and 6hr eastbound. The service will operate on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
Icelandair intends to use a Boeing 737 MAX 8 for the route, featuring 160 seats. This includes 16 business class seats and 144 economy class seats. Note that business class on Icelandair is more like domestic first class within the United States, rather than like long haul business class, where you’d ordinarily find a flat bed.
This route isn’t just useful if you’re trying to travel between Michigan and Iceland, but rather Icelandair is known for how it uses Keflavik Airport as a connecting point between North America and Europe. The airline offers seamless connections to more than 25 destinations across Europe, so this is a great way to get from Detroit to many destinations with just one stop.
Best of all, Icelandair offers a stopover program when flying roundtrip, so you can plan a stopover for up to seven nights in Iceland if you’d like, while just paying the extra taxes and fees.
My take on Icelandair adding Detroit flights
Icelandair has long been good with gradual, sustainable growth, and the airline is incredibly strategic with the routes it adds. For example, going back a few years, now defunct WOW Air used to operate flights between Keflavik and Detroit. Those flight stopped when the airline liquidated.
While Icelandair competed head-to-head with WOW Air in many markets, obviously Detroit hadn’t been a priority for the airline. Ultimately Icelandair was constrained with its growth, as the airline used to exclusively fly 757s and 767s. Now Icelandair is expanding its fleet with 737 MAXs, which are lower capacity and more fuel efficient. That also makes many markets more viable.
Detroit can be a funny market for aviation. It’s a pretty large city, but it’s an absolute Delta and SkyTeam fortress hub, where other airlines have a hard time competing.
The only long haul airlines flying to Detroit that aren’t aligned with Delta are Lufthansa and Royal Jordanian, and both have obvious ties to the city. Meanwhile airlines like British Airways and Turkish Airlines, which otherwise serve a huge number of markets in the United States, don’t currently fly there. British Airways flew to Detroit until 2007, while Turkish Airlines announced it would fly to Detroit, but it hasn’t happened yet.
I imagine Icelandair will have no issues maintaining a 4x seasonal service in this market. For what it’s worth, Delta hasn’t historically operated a Detroit to Keflavik route. The airline has consistently flown from New York to Keflavik, and has even added service from Boston and Minneapolis to Keflavik, but we haven’t seen service from Detroit. I’m curious if this competition from Icelandair might cause Delta to compete there as well.
Icelandair is launching a new seasonal flight between Iceland and Detroit as of May 2023. The route will be operated 4x weekly by a Boeing 737 MAX, and joins Icelandair’s extensive network in the United States. The last time we saw nonstop service between Iceland and Detroit was on WOW Air, and that didn’t end well.
What do you make of Icelandair’s new route to Detroit?
… And Delta just announced DTW - KEF which will launch 3 days before Icelandair, lol.
Major problem for Iceland Air is that they have no partners and are not part of an alliance and are not cheap enough compared to other carriers.
In addition Air France operates daily DTWCDG in partnership with Delta. Currently using B777.
This leaves ATL, DFW, and IAH as the only other markets larger than DTW to lack a low cost European carrier.
It is certain that Delta will start at least summer service from DTW to KEF. They could use a 757 but might use their new A321NEOs which are ETOPS rated (specifically for Hawaii).
Whether it actually changes anything for FI's long term prospects or not, DL doesn't let interlopers into its hubs go unchallenged.
If so, that would be significant. DTW doesn't seem to get much love from Delta these days.
DL can be finicky with fleet placement, and may not have the A32Ns insured for TATL routes (a la 763s for TPAC prior to the late '00s). Not that that can't be changed with a cheque, but doubtful for a single marginal route.
The legal and regulatory stuff all flows from where Delta chooses to fly. They are not interested in flying 8+ hour routes with the A321NEOs but they have never said they couldn't or wouldn't use domestically configured aircraft on shorter routes. And they still use 757s to Iceland so can do that from DTW as easily as they can from other cities.
What are the ties between Detroit and a) Lufthansa and b) Royal Jordanian?
Lufthansa because Germany and Detroit are Automotive Hubs?
But Jordan and Detroit?
Largest concentrated Muslim community in the US, I believe, is Dearborn and surrounding communities.
Actually, not just Muslim. The Detroit area has the largest Arab/Middle Eastern population per capita outside the Middle East.
Lufthansa - US headquarters of several German companies based in Detroit, ie Continental, Bosch.
RJ - significant Arab American population in Detroit, especially Lebanese and Iraqi.
I think Icelandair will do well. When WOW flew to DTW, it was successful. It was one of the last routes cut in liquidation.
Thanks for the info.
For a long time BA had at DTW-LHR route, not sure when they dropped it - maybe mid-2000s? Had friends who took that to go to London or elsewhere in Europe and avoid having to stop on the east coast or backtrack to Chicago.
Yup, dropped it in 2007, had operates it for 50 years, apparently.
BA linked their DTW flight to IAH to try to save it as well, as that airport was still restricted to LGW due to Bermuda II, back in the day. Gave their IAH premium traffic a direct 1stop to LHR. Didn't last though.
It would sure be nice if this was a year-round flight as it would force Delta to drop the very high airfares to London, Paris and Amsterdam.
It can be considerably cheaper flying to Chicago or Toronto on one ticket and then a second ticket on Delta out of Chicago or Toronto in business-class or premium-economy –– often connecting right back in Detroit –– than simply originating in Detroit. $200 isn't worth the hassle. Sometimes it's thousands.
or even Windsor (YQG)...