With Vancouver International Airport (YVR) on track this year to notch a record tally for annual passengers and better last year’s 22.3-million high-water mark, much attention has focused on new airlines flying out of the airport.
Beijing Capital Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines, for example, launched service to YVR in the past year while Interjet plans to launch flights on October 26 and Flair Airlines is set to launch flights in December.
Part of what’s driving the increased passenger count at YVR, however, is traffic from airlines that now operate year-round.
Icelandair, this month, is launching its first full fall-and-winter season of flights out of YVR.
The Reykjavik-based carrier launched flights to Vancouver in May 2014 and flew twice per week on a seasonal basis. That increased to four times per week during the peak May-through-October period and for the first time the airline will operate two flights per week during the slower October-through-May period.
Flights are scheduled to ramp up to four flights per week again in May, said Boston-based Michael Raucheisen, who heads Icelandair’s public relations in North America.
“It looks like it’s going very well in Vancouver so we’re excited to start year-round flights,” he told Business in Vancouver.
“Whenever we enter any market, we evaluate market demand and, certainly, we work to support markets that are eager to have us there.”
All of the airline’s flights out of Vancouver go non-stop to Reykjavik, which is on the direct flight path between Vancouver and Europe – something that makes Reykjavik an ideal stopover location, he said.
“Our network in general has grown immensely over the years,” said Raucheisen.
“We don’t just fly to Iceland. All of our flights to Iceland connect within an hour to European destinations.”
The airline usually uses Boeing 757 planes on its Vancouver route and its planes have a configuration of 14 business-class, or Saga, seats and 169 seats that are either economy class or premium economy class.
When demand for seats is particularly strong, the airline uses one of its Boeing 767 airplanes, which seat 267 passengers, on the route.
“One great feature that you can get spoiled by is Wi-Fi,” Raucheisen said.
All of Icelandair’s Vancouver flights have offered Wi-Fi from Day 1, and the airline has since upgraded its fleet to ensure that all of its planes can offer the service.
Wi-Fi is free in business class and available for 9 Euros for other passengers, he said.
“We try to keep up with our passengers: what they like and don’t like,” he said.
“We found that people prefer comfort and amenities on board. That’s even more important than meals. When you depart, especially from the east coast, from Boston at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. in the evening, people don’t care about a meal. They want to sleep or have movies or use Wi-Fi.”
YVR spokesman Christopher Richards told BIV that many airlines have started offering Wi-Fi to attract passengers.
KLM’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplanes, for example, have Wi-Fi and started flying to Vancouver this summer.
Lufthansa and Condor also offer Wi-Fi on some of their flights to Vancouver.
Air Canada, meanwhile, offers Wi-Fi on its entire “narrow-body” fleet, according to spokeswoman Angela Mah.
Those smaller planes primarily fly across North America.
“Wi-fi is being installed onboard all of the wide-body aircraft, and the first aircraft is expected to be completed shortly,” Mah said.
British Airways, Air France and Edelweiss Air are some of the other carriers that fly to Europe but do not offer Wi-Fi on flights out of YVR.