Should You Fly Icelandair?

The Professor's Experiences May Help Your Decision

Author: The Traveling Professor/Friday, June 24, 2016/Categories: Norway/Iceland/Denmark

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Icelandair is a low-cost carrier serving 16 North American airports.  All flights from North America go through Iceland's Keflavik airport on their way to over 40 destinations in Europe.  I have been on several Icelandair flights in the past year as well as many of our Traveling Professor travelers on our small group tours to Iceland.  In this blog post I will relay to you my personal experiences with and opinions of Icelandair.

What I Like About Icelandair

Prices:  Icelandair offers some of the most competitive fares to Iceland and the rest of Europe.  It is not unusual to find coach fares under $1,000 any time of the year, including peak summer season.  Excellent fares can be found for Economy Comfort and other premium seats, often at a lower price than flying coach on other legacy carriers to Europe.

Stopover:  Every flight from North America stops in Keflavik airport in Iceland before going onward to any destination in Europe.  Travelers can stay in Iceland for up to 7 days at no additional charge upon going forward to other European destinations.  Travelers can also stopover on their return.

Flight Crew:  Professional, courteous, and helpful.  They are professionally dressed and do their jobs promptly and efficiently.

Equipment:  My experience has been on the Boeing 757 although I understand the 767 is in service or will soon be.  I found the planes to be clean and in good condition.

Loyalty Program:  Saga Club members accumulate points towards elite status, flights, and upgrades.  Points can be used to purchase meals and other items.

Lounge:  Those with access to lounges will find a full-featured comfortable Saga Club lounge.

In-Flight Entertainment:  Free access to a good choice of movies, TV programs, and other programming.

What I Don't Like So Much About Icelandair

Equipment: My experience is in taking the 757-200 between North America and Iceland.  It has a 3 x 3 across configuration in most coach rows.  I doubt any Icelandair executive has flown in economy class because they would realize how much they are torturing their passengers.  Seats are very uncomfortable, way too tight, and a misery on an overnight flight to Iceland.  My biggest dislike about Icelandair is the uncomfortable Economy Class seating.   However, if you want to pay for it, Economy Comfort and Saga Class may be worth it.  But that's why they make Economy class so uncomfortable, who would pay to upgrade if they didn't make it an agonizing experience?   If anyone at Icelandair disagrees, I will bet they never flew on a full flight in row 28, seat B (middle) from JFK to KEF.

However, my experience on the flights between Iceland and the rest of Europe is better.  More room and more comfort with the seating.

Customer Service:  My personal experience has been waits of 20 minutes or more when phoning customer service to change flights or to ask other travel related questions.  In another instance when I checked in at the Boston airport, I was invited to use the lounge by the Icleandair employee checking me in.  When I appeared at the lounge, I was quite embarrassed when I was denied entry.   At the Keflavik airport, while waiting to board our flight, we were herded into groups from one location to another with no explanation for delays or why we needed to go from one area to another.  Because of the lack of organization by Icelandair, a mob mentality took over as passengers cut lines and pushed and shoved while boarding. 

 I am always amazed how airlines "don't get" customer service.  For such little effort they could get so much better returns.  On our Traveling Professor tours, we always treat every customer as special.  I wish I could find an airline that does so also.

Loyalty Program:  There is no "status match" as offered by many other airlines.   For instance, those who hold Platinum elite status on American Airlines for instance, can apply for a parallel service match on other airlines like Delta.  No deal on Icleandair.

In-Flight Meals:  They ALL need to be paid for, even on transcontinental flights.  My experience on American is that they will do TWO meal services, included in the price of the ticket, on overseas flights to Europe.

Change Fees:  This is where Icleandair could distinguish itself but doesn't.  After waiting on the phone, they are still going to charge you like all the other airlines outrageous fees to change your ticket.  I recently paid $200 just to change to an earlier flight back from Iceland to Boston.

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