Slot appeal sets back Wow Air's bid to rival Icelandair

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Icelandic budget carrier Wow Air has suffered a setback in its scrap with Icelandair over slot allocation at Reykjavik’s Keflavik airport, after a competition ruling in its favour was overturned.

Wow Air has been seeking to open transatlantic services via Keflavik. But Icelandair holds grandfather rights over slots during two peak 2h periods, around 06:00-08:00 and 15:00-17:00.

Although there are plenty of slots outside of these hours, Iceland’s competition regulator ruled last November that airport authority Isavia should intervene to provide peak-time slots to Wow Air.

But an appeals committee overturned the ruling on 28 February, declaring that Isavia did not have the legal right to authorise such intervention against the independent slot co-ordinator.

“[Our] argument was that [Wow Air] was barking up the wrong tree,” says a spokesman for Isavia. “Isavia is not a player in the game. We don’t have a horse in the race.”

The Icelandic competition regulator says it needs to consider how to respond to the appeal decision, and is to discuss the matter with the carriers involved as well as the government.

Wow Air had sought to compete head-to-head with Icelandair on US-European routes.

Isavia says the airline applied for arrivals at 06:30 from Boston and 06:10 from Newark, but was granted 05:00 and 05:10 respectively.

It also sought a 14:10 arrival from Paris for departure to Boston at 16:50, but was allocated slots at 16:40 and 17:40.

Isavia adds that Wow Air opted against serving Newark but, at the end of January, held slots for an 05:40 arrival from Boston, and a 17:40 departure. The authority states that Wow Air predecessor Iceland Express used these slot times in 2011.

Wow Air abruptly cancelled its US route plans shortly afterwards, however, claiming it had been denied crucial slots.

Isavia says it is mystified by the airline’s actions, stating that it is “unclear” why the budget carrier insists on establishing a hub which operates at the same times as Icelandair.

“It seems that the simple solution would be to accept operating times readily available, slightly before or after the short fully-booked periods of the morning and afternoon banks,” it states.

Wow Air could not immediately be reached for comment on the appeal ruling or to clarify its rationale for seeking specific slots.