North Iceland based charter and Tours Company Circle Air is expanding its service. On the way to its goal, they made an agreement with Austrian- based helicopter lessor Heli-Austria. Flugblogger has learned details of the expansion, which goes despite slowing growth in tourism.
Circle Air feels ready to grow. Before the year 2019, the company´s services were provided by airplanes only. There are two 7-seaters Gippsland Aeronautics GA8-TC-320 (reg. TF-CAD and TF-CAB) and 9-seater Beechcraft King Air B200 (reg. TF-NLB). In addition, the company advertises its service on 19-seaters DHC-6 Twin Otter’s (reg. TF-NLC and TF-NLD). According to Icelandic aviation authority (Samgöngustofa) website, these aircrafts are registered by Norlandair. It is a niche operator based in Akureyri, mainly focussing on specialized work in Greenland and the Faeroe Islands, in addition to government contracts for scheduled flights to towns in Northern Iceland: Grimsey, Raufarhofn and Thorshofn.
According to Circle Air´s website, their flights are dedicated to sightseeing and aerial photography, whale watching, private adventures, and highland transportation „whatever kind of flying that requires rugged reliability“. Now the company is going to expand the list with helicopter charters.
„Last year was good in terms of bookings and the outlook for 2019 is encouraging“, Marketing Director of Circle Air Þórunn Sigurðardóttir told Flugblogger, „Circle Air is hoping to be „A One Stop Shop“ in air transport solutions in Iceland, especially now by adding luxury helicopters to the selection of superb fixed-wing options. We will be based in both Reykjavik and Akureyri and therefore, able to cater for more diverse needs of our clients. We teamed up with Heli-Austria to provide us with this new addition to the fleet and I think that speaks for itself in quality.“ No details about Reykjavik base were given now, as „some minor details about location“ are still being managed.
The Heli-Austria CEO Roy Knaus told Flugblogger, his company has sent to Iceland six Airbus Helicopters, which Circle Air will be able to use through partnerships with local companies and one aircraft exclusively for them. The list includes Airbus Helicopters H125 (reg. OE-XDE, OE-XIE, and OE-XME) for the Arctic Heli Skiing tours operator in Northern Iceland, also one H125 (reg. OE-XOE) and one H130 (reg. OE-XCF) for the Icelandic subsidiary of Eleven tour operator. „Circle Air has got access to those helicopters in cooperation with these companies in winter and exclusivity on the H130 (reg. OE-XCF) and AS355 (reg. OE-XAG) in summer“, Roy Knaus explained and emphasized more options for Circle Air´s expansion in future, „Circle Air can get all helicopters they want from us – we also have 4 AS332 Super Pumas, Airbus H145, etc.“
All helicopters were sent to Iceland from Europe by ferry. Circle Air announced, that first aircrafts have arrived in Iceland.
Circle Air´s expansion is going forward despite concerns about the situation in the tourism industry. The numbers are getting worst since 2017, demonstrating the slowing growth of tourist arrivals from 40% to 10% in 2018. In January 2019, the only Icelandic airport operator Isavia had announced, that this year Keflavik airport, the main gate for foreign travelers in Iceland, expects fewer passengers than before. Decreasing is the first time factor since the world economic crisis in 2008 (read more about the reasons here).
Circle Air´s CEO Thorvaldur Ludvik Sigurjonsson is cautiously optimistic: „As a relative newcomer to the scene, we´ve seen steady growth in our carve of the market, especially in high-end tourist transfers and cruise ship passengers in the North of Iceland. Although years of hyper-growth in the South of Iceland may be behind us, we never saw such a bubble in the north, east or west and thus are quite undeterred. Our bookings for 2019 are encouraging and show healthy growth. The growth in cruise ship passengers is estimated at close to 20% this year and the new direct flights to Akureyri from Rotterdam and many airports in the UK has also bolstered the growth numbers in the North of Iceland. Let´s see what comes but we believe we have grounds for being positive“.