Icelandair is preparing to start taking delivery of 16 Boeing 737 MAXs in 2017 and is seeking maintenance suppliers to support the changeover.
“Our continued double-digit growth means we will require further partnerships,” Icelandair VP technical operations Jens Thordarson said, speaking at MRO Europe in London.
Thordarson said Icelandair, which currently operates 26 757s and four 767s, is looking to form engine and component partnerships for the incoming MAX 8s and 9s. The airline is also looking for support on its General Electric CF6 engines, which power the 767.
The Reykjavik-based airline works very closely with its MRO suppliers, monitoring their metrics and giving them direct feedback on their performance. Companies have to show that they share Icelandair’s ethos – and even understand their passengers - to be selected.
“Icelandair wants to be a leader. We have no interest in learning how everyone did things in the past and following. If you want to work with us, you have to be a leader in what you do,” Thordarson said.
The Icelandic carrier is also boosting its in-house line and heavy maintenance capabilities, opening extended hangar facilities in November 2017. Icelandair employs 470 people in its maintenance operations across three locations, specializing in 737s, 757s and 767s.
“One of the key reasons we do maintenance ourselves is because our aircraft are not exactly that common. It is important to keep the knowledge alive and relevant,” Thordarson said. He added that, despite the arrival of the 737 MAXs, the 757s will continue to be operated until at least 2025.
Icelandair has started producing its own consumables and doing 767 wheel and brake work in-house. It is also in the start-up phase of bringing slide and raft repairs in house. The in-house MRO operation has five to 10 improvement projects underway at any one time and this year the airline is expecting to cut $3-4 million from its cost base.
This winter, the Reykjavik-based carrier will open a new route to the UK city of Birmingham, followed by Cleveland, Dallas and Dublin in 2018.
“We have expanded on the US West Coast and to a lot of places in Europe because they are all interlinked. If we increase capacity in North America, we need to increase capacity in Europe as well,” Thordarson said.