WOW air confirms India flights; targeting North American passengers with Toronto and San Francisco to be popular
Much of the route development talk for many people in this part of the aviation industry these past few weeks was put to rest on 15 May when WOW air finally confirmed that it will begin flights to Delhi from Reykjavik/Keflavik, as the LCC plans to introduce the Indian capital to its network on 6 December. “We are very excited to count Delhi among our list of growing destinations outside of Europe,” said Skúli Mogensen, CEO and founder of WOW air about the route announcement. “This addition expands on WOW air’s promise to connect more travellers to as many diverse and exciting cities at the best-possible prices.” Initially the airline will offer three weekly flights into Delhi, with the frequency increasing to five times weekly from the start of 2019. WOW air will serve the Indian capital using its fleet of A330-300s, plus its A330-900s when they join the carrier.
Presently the traffic between India and Iceland is very small, with OAG Traffic Analyser data forecasting that roughly 5,400 passengers travelled indirectly between the two countries in 2017. Despite this low level of demand, traffic between the European and Asian nations grew 59% last year versus the passenger levels of 2016, so WOW air’s service could heavily stimulate demand between the nations. Nonetheless, a vast majority of passengers on the Icelandic carrier’s new Indian service will be connecting onto North America, with WOW air currently providing passengers with 11 onward connection options over the Atlantic. Outside of North America the only other bookable destination from Delhi presently (15 May) is London Gatwick. What WOW air’s service does provide is the first and only low-cost, one-ticket option between India and North America.
Growth accelerating in the non-stop market
Currently there are only three airlines offering non-stop services between India and North America, namely Air India and United Airlines, while Air Canada joined the market in 2015. While it is not displayed in the graph below, it should be pointed out that Jet Airways does serve North America, offering a daily service to Toronto Pearson. Nonetheless, this service operates from Amsterdam where passengers can connect onto either of the Indian operator’s routes to Delhi, Mumbai or Bengaluru, or onto a KLM flight. Another interesting point is that since American Airlines withdrew from the India-North America market, the non-stop sector is a 100% monopoly for Star Alliance.
The non-stop market between India and North America has certainly picked up in recent years, with 2017 seeing seat capacity pass the highs seen in 2011 (1.51 million seats), with 1.65 million seats being flown last year. This was up by 20% versus the total seen in 2016 (1.38 million). Capacity in 2016 was up 18% versus 2015, while the year before that saw seat numbers climb by only 3.1%, highlighting that the market is expanding rapidly. Despite this growth however, it should be noted that most of this has come from Air India and the arrival of Air Canada, with United’s seat offering having remained stagnant since 2012, give or take a few hundred seats each year.
Toronto, San Francisco and New York to lead connections
While the non-stop market has grown vastly between India and North America, there are still sizeable indirect flows of passengers between the two. An in-depth browse of OAG Traffic Analyser data highlights that in 2017 some 718,400 one-way passengers travelled indirectly between Delhi and North America, with the top destination points being Vancouver, Toronto Pearson and San Francisco, cities which already have non-stop services to Delhi. Overall, of the top 15 North American destinations from Delhi in 2017, seven (highlighted in purple) are served by WOW air. It should also be noted that while Washington Dulles is the sixth most popular indirect destination in North America from Delhi, WOW air does serve Baltimore/Washington in the US capital catchment area. Another factor to take into account is that at the moment WOW air is not offering New York JFK as a connection option for Delhi-originating passengers, however New York Newark is a bookable destination.
Airports served by WOW air in North America which just missed out on a place in the top 15 include Montreal (12,600 indirect one-way passengers in 2017) and Detroit (6,100). In terms of connecting airports, Reykjavik/Keflavik is going up against strong contenders with regards to transit points, with the top airports presently for connections between Delhi and North America being London Heathrow (14% of connecting traffic; stretched across British Airways, Air Canada, Air India and United), Dubai (12%; Emirates) and Frankfurt (7.2%; Lufthansa). However, with WOW air’s low-cost model, it is likely that it will stimulate and capture new demand between the two markets.