Now That’s Flexibility

Icelandair, Operations

Airline operations are no simple thing. Almost everyone has had that painful moment sitting in one airport with clear blue skies while being told that the flight is delayed due to weather . . . or crew . . . or maintenance . . . or, well, you get the idea. Though you may like to believe otherwise, the airline really isn’t lying to you. The operations are so complicated and interwoven that one small problem can have impacts far down the line. It’s very difficult to make changes to the entire schedule so that it becomes an orderly change.

That’s why this latest story about Icelandair caught my eye. I have never seen an airline have as much flexibility as these guys had today. Believe it or not, they shifted their entire schedule by a few hours to avoid bad weather.
For those who don’t know, Icelandair is based in Keflavik (Iceland, duh). They have a relatively simple operation as evidenced by their route map.

Customers fly into Keflavik from the US/Canada overnight and arrive in the morning. Then they send the fleet to a variety of European destinations where they promptly turn around and come back to Keflavik in the afternoon. Finally, those planes head out to the US in the evening and start the whole thing over again.

Well, they were faced with a problem today – very high winds of up to 65 knots. That can make it tough to land a plane, especially if it’s a crosswind. So what did they do? They just shifted their schedule to avoid the worst of it.

So last night, they held all the planes in the US/Canada for a few hours longer than normal. Those customers left between midnight and 2a instead of the 4 to 5 hours earlier that normally is the case. Then the European flights were pushed as well to not depart until noon so that they could get all the aircraft in place and get all the connecting passengers to their flights. They will turn around and then end up getting back into the US late into the night.

So that’s great that they can just shift the entire airline like that, but I’m still not sure how they’re going to recover. Those planes arrive in the US way late, so how are they going to get back on schedule in coming days? If you’re flying Icelandair soon, you’ll definitely want to call in advance to find out more.

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