After months of anticipation, WOW Air is set to begin bringing thousands of passengers from Cork to Reykjavik and then on across the Atlantic from this summer onwards. CEO Skúli Mogensen told Ken Rooney why he believes passengers should stay a while to sample the natural wonder of his home country.
“Get out of the city and just experience the wilderness,” says Skúli Mogensen.
“You are in the middle of nowhere — no artificial light, no artificial sounds, just you and nature — that’s what, in my mind, makes Iceland absolutely unique.”
With one-way air fares to Reykjavik starting at €59.99 each way, he’s sure to have many takers by the time the inaugural flight departs Cork on May 19. The airline will also provide access to Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, New York City, San Francisco, Toronto and Washington DC, with fares starting at €149 each way.
Commitment to low fares
Sceptics may question how long an airline can offer transatlantic travel for around the same price as some European cities, but Mogensen is confident that innovation can maintain low air fares.
In fact, if the former tech entrepreneur has his way, we could all soon be happily tweeting our way to free air travel.
“Our mission is to enable everybody to fly and we do that by lowering prices to a point where actually anybody can afford it,” he says.
“In the long run it will depend, first and foremost, on how successful we are in becoming your ‘total travel partner’, so to speak.
“We can use modern technologies so that when you travel with WOW, and you document your journey, which most people do, you take pictures and share them on social media. When you hashtag #WowAir, you essentially become our ambassador, if you like — you become our distribution channel.
“By using new technologies in an innovative manner we can incentivise our passengers and hopefully, one day, bring the total fare down to zero.”
Four weekly flights
With the airline operating four flights every week during the summer 2017 season, as well as three per week in winter, the addition of these 66,000 seats for Cork Airport has provided a much-needed boost in optimism among the region’s business community.
Mogensen has seen first-hand the degree to which the introduction of extra routes can stimulate local economies.
“It depends, but I would say ‘very significantly’ has been the usual response,” he says. “What we have seen everywhere we have come in with our very low fares is an opening up of the market both for people to travel abroad, like now for people who live in the Cork region, and vice versa.
“So we are stimulating the markets in both directions, which I am very pleased with.”
The airline has ambitious targets for its service in Cork, which it regards as a significant business and leisure hub.
The performance of its Dublin routes convinced the carrier to take the next step in Ireland.
“We started flying to Dublin not that long ago and that has exceeded our expectations,” says Mogensen.
“We’re very happy with the results there, so we’re very excited about the Irish market at large and Cork is the logical next step.
“The feedback to-date has been very promising.”
When it comes to service, Mogensen says that today’s air passengers are under no illusions as to what to expect from a low-cost airline — but he likes to have plenty of cheerful to go with the cheap.
“I often say it doesn’t cost anything to smile,” he says. “I think we offer overall a great service and a good product. “Now, we are a low-cost carrier so you will pay for luggage and meals on board — and I think it’s very important to be upfront about that — but I don’t think that’s really an issue anymore.
“Passengers today are very familiar with that and are not surprised at all.”
While the prospect of affordable travel to the bright lights of New York and Boston will understandably be the main draw for Munster passengers, the airline’s stopover package is sure to tempt many to sample lights of the more celestial variety on the way.
“In the winter time to see the Northern Lights, for example, it gives you flexibility to break up your travel or use your business travel to do a one- or two-day leisure experience as well,” says Mogensen. “You just have such close proximity with nature, the powerful forces, be it the Atlantic Ocean or the volcanoes, the geysers, the waterfalls — that, to me, is Iceland.”
And what better way of winding down from a return transatlantic flight than a dip in the famous geothermal baths of the Blue Lagoon — a mere 20 minutes from Reykjavik’s Keflavik International Airport?
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved