Icelandair’s first Boeing 737 MAX flew its first revenue flight on Friday from the airline’s hub at Keflavik International Airport near Reykjavik to Newark’s Liberty International Airport. The aircraft embarked on the 6-hour flight from Reykjavik as FI623 for the first time with passengers, marking a new era for the airline as it is the first time the airline will operate a 737 for revenue service since it retired its former 737-300 aircraft in 2004.
The 737 MAX 8 will be replacing its older brother, the Boeing 757-200, on the route for the time being. Due to a brief departure delay in Keflavik, the aircraft is scheduled to arrive in Newark at 8 p.m. local time. Once it arrives in Newark, it will rest briefly then return to its home in the upper latitudes, arriving the next day during the North American arrivals rush at Keflavik.
It’s unknown at this time where the aircraft will fly after it lands back in Iceland, as the aircraft isn’t on the schedule again until Saturday to fly back to Newark and then Sunday to join the Berlin route, as was initially planned.
The launch of the aircraft was delayed by a week, as it was initially scheduled to debut on Friday, April 6. Seemingly at the last minute, Icelandair pushed back the launch of the aircraft until Sunday, April 8 as the airline didn’t have a scheduled flight to Berlin on Saturday, April 7. However, Icelandair kept pushing back the launch date, interrupting plans for the aircraft to fly on proving routes this past week to European cities such as Berlin, Stockholm, and Oslo, as planned.
The newest addition to Icelandair’s fleet will then remain on the Newark route for the foreseeable future on a daily basis, as well as on the Berlin route on a five-times-weekly basis with the occasional flight to Stockholm. Newark is the first North American destination to feature MAX service and will serve as the North American counterpart to the Berlin flight. It will stay on the route from April 10 until May.
This will remain until May when it will also see service to Orly Airport in Paris, France and Bergen, Norway on the European side of the operation and Cleveland on the North American end. The aircraft will open service to Cleveland as part of Icelandair’s strategy to service more North American cities in a race against ultra-low-cost competitor WOW Air.
The aircraft, registered as TF-ICE, was delivered to Icelandair from Boeing just over a month ago on February 28. Icelandair’s second Boeing 737 MAX 8, registration TF-ICY, was delivered to Icelandair and made its maiden voyage to the island-nation just last week after completing its test flights over Washington State by Boeing’s flight test department.
The launch of MAX flights for Icelandair is the start of a new chapter for the airline and is another indicator of what is appearing to be intense competition between Icelandair and its direct competitor WOW Air as both fight for traffic to, from and through Iceland.