Iceland’s flag carrier Icelandair has taken delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX, as it embarks on a fleet expansion program.

The Icelandic airline is seeking to renew and grow its fleet to help enhance transatlantic operations at a time of increasing competition. Along with legacy carriers on the profitable oceanic sector, Icelandair is facing the rapidly expanding presence of LCCs such as Norwegian and fellow Icelandic carrier WOW Air.

Icelandair, a long-time user of the Boeing 757 with more than 20 in its fleet, is taking 16 737 MAXs, in a mix of -8 and -9 variants until 2021. The aircraft will replace some of the 757s, but will also be used to expand the fleet and operate sectors not yet capable of handling the company’s 757s or larger 767-300s.

The company has embarked on a policy of launching services between what it regards as under-served European and North American destinations, operating via its Reykjavik hub. Around one-third of its transatlantic passengers break their journeys in Iceland for stopovers.

“The arrival of the new aircraft represents a milestone, the start of the renewal of our fleet,” Icelandair president and CEO Björgólfur Jóhannsson said. “The MAX will be an excellent addition to our fleet of Boeing 757s and 767s, and increase both flexibility and capacity for the growth of our network through added frequencies and new destinations.”

Icelandair connects 26 gateways in Europe with 23 gateways in North America.

Alan Dron