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Anyone been to Keflavik lately?

Hello--I'm considering flying (a second time) with Icelandair from NY to London this coming spring. My first experience was a bit on the stressful side (as is, I suppose, all air travel--something I'm learning).

I had no trouble on the way over, as my stopover in Keflavik was "cancelled" b/c of codesharing (ended up going nonstop via United). At Keflavik upon return, however, the flight was late by about an hour. They did hold our flight to the US for us, but the airport was complete chaos. No one seemed to know which gate our flight was leaving from, it was super-crowded, and I had no idea whether I had enough time to run to the restroom before the flight boarded, much less where the bathrooms were.

So, I did a little Googling and I see the airport has been expanded to include a new building (I only remember one in '16) and the map on the airport site includes estimates as to how long it takes to reach the bathrooms.

The flight prices are very very tempting right now. I did want to go nonstop, but as I said, this price is good, and I'm having trouble finding nonstops going from EWR to LGW anyway.

Not sure whether to hold out for that Golden Airfare Deal that may never happen. I'm on a few mailing lists and so far, nothing has jumped out at me.

What say you about your recent experience? Thanks!

Posted by
668 posts

We have used Icelandair, connecting at Keflavik, 8 times in the last 4 years (4 round-trip flights), including last May and June. We are not thrilled with the transfer process, as we always have about one hurried hour to make the connection. But so far we have not had to forego bathroom trips, and also have not missed any connections.

Our main complaint is that, except for the first year, we have not even had time to wait in line to buy a sandwich. But this is not really a big deal, since we bring snacks. So, we plan to continue with Icelandair, unless there is a great deal on another carrier.

BTW, I wonder if Icelandic officials in charge of the airport realize that they would make a lot more money on their concessions if people actually had time to look at things and wait in check-out lines. Maybe this cash is insignificant compared to the profit from shipping passengers in and out quickly.

Posted by
7182 posts

I used KEF to connect from Paris to Chicago on low cost Iceland based Wow Airlines last July peak travel time. It did not seem any more or less chaotic than other airports. I had no problem finding the toilets. The only thing there was a long line for the water fountains with people filling water bottles as you have to pay for it on board. But the airfare was only $380 one way from Paris to Chicago in July.

All airlines have delays cancelations etc. if you fly regularly you will see; all air travel could be stressful depending on the person.

Posted by
504 posts

I was surprised at the delays etc. I experienced in 2016. Maybe my memory doesn't serve me well, but in the '80s the only time I recall being delayed was when I took a charter flight to Heathrow. The other two times I went to London, I flew Virgin Atlantic and everything went swimmingly. Of course that was a long time ago!

Posted by
8102 posts

Will be flying through here in 2 weeks and will come back and let you know if they have the construction finished. We flew in March a year and a half ago and the construction seemed to be everywhere.
It is always best to use the WC on the plane shortly before landing as the bathrooms are quite busy.

This is my go-to airline for Frankfurt to Sacramento and back. It may be 3 flights, but would rather do this in 16 hours than sit on a flight for 11 hours. Also like the planes with just 1 aisle, as you get on and off the plane a lot faster. The quick 7 hour +/- flight from Iceland to Seattle sells me.

They do not charge for water on Icelandic Air, but maybe on Wow airlines they do? We bring our own food as don't feel like paying for meals and this way we get what we enjoy.

Another plus is picking your own seats for free and being able to check a bag for free.

Posted by
3655 posts

A lot of the Icelandair flights are now wide body 767 to N Amer so not just single aisle. I also noticed that they are doubling up on 757s for some routes on some days, sending 2 planes to N Amer at the same time to the same city when not sending a wide body 767. Looks like tourism is really taking off, not a good thing.

Posted by
1816 posts

I will be there in early December; so I will try and remember to post about it on my return.
I'm staying for four days, then flying to Denmark; and on the way back am transferring there to fly home, so I'll have three different experiences to share, hopefully all good.
Fingers crossed.

Posted by
6868 posts

Sandra,
It doesn't seem like your experience will get considerably better next year...but now that you know what to expect, the question is if you can deal with it in exchange for a better fare. These two articles explain the issue - the growth in passenger traffic has been off the charts (87% increase in passengers transiting through between 2011-2015 and double digit increases ever since) but capacity hasn't increased. This airport wasn't built for the type of passenger load it sees every year, and it's playing catch up.
https://www.seattletimes.com/life/travel/my-love-hate-relationship-with-icelandair-and-its-home-airport/
http://www.airport-business.com/2015/04/new-master-plan-keflavik-airport-tourists-iceland-double/

Having said that, I hope you consider a stopover in Iceland one day if you fly Iceland Air. It will wipe out all the savings from the flight, but it's a wonderful place to visit. Very easy, safe, and interesting. Lots of natural beauty.

Posted by
504 posts

Just to complicate things, ha ha, I noticed that Icelandair has now added different levels of "economy". Such as Economy Light and Economy Standard. Last time, it was just Economy and Economy Comfort. I can only guess this is to compete with such other airlines as Norwegian.

Posted by
8102 posts

Just got back from my trip, Frankfurt to Sacramento and back.
Barely saw the airport after landing from Frankfurt as we landed 20 min. before my flight to Seattle was supposed to depart. They had people stationed all through the airport to direct us. When they saw people rushing they would ask Washington? Go this way. They held the plane and we made it. The flight made up time and landed on time in Seattle. Sadly, Alaska air was really delayed and my 2.5 hour layover increased to 4 hours. Finally landed in Sacramento around 11 instead of 21:30.

Returning, all went very smooth, flights all landed early so had some time to stroll around the Iceland airport. Passport control was super quick. They have more food stands and a lot more gates. WC were in multiple locations and smell like cinnamon. Nice after being in a plane WC. The planes are sitting all over the tarmac and you may end up taking a bus out to them. Prepare to have a coat as it is cold and windy going up or down the steps. Airport looks really nice, and I think they may need to build more gates with Wow using it now too. Most of the construction I saw there a year and half ago looks finished now.

Pluses - choosing my seats for free and I went and changed them 2 days before my flight so that there was an empty seat in the middle going and coming. Free checked bag. Brought a large lunch both times. Comfy seats with more leg room than on other airlines. I like the one aisle planes as you load and unload so much faster. Aisle isn't blocked with service carts for hours. Movie and TV choices were ok. Make sure to bring your own headphones or earplugs. Service was pleasant on all flights. Skies were clear and I got great photos of the sunset and polar ice cap. No Northern lights tho.

If you can arrange your flights to go through Portland, take it. This was the best airport I have ever seen. Ask me about my fried clams. :-)

Posted by
3655 posts

Ecomomy Light is not offered in all markets, maybe just Norwegian markets?

Jo: The ice you saw was the Greenland Icecap.

Posted by
365 posts

Ok I'lll bite... how were your fried clams and where did you get them? PDX is the best, I agree!

Posted by
8102 posts

There was pretty much either ice or snow all of the way as the skies were very clear both directions. We had the map on the middle seat and know when we are going over Greenland, Canada, or Iceland.

The Fried Clams were from Mo's Seafood & Chowder at the Portland airport. They were superb!
Truly, the nicest airport I have ever been too. Will try and book all my flights through here from now on.

Posted by
1816 posts

I've just returned this past week from flying through Keflavik.
The first trip was YVR-KEF; we landed at 06:30.
Efficient passport and customs control, quite quick, but then a very long walk along a huge corridor, and up and down various escalators to reach baggage claim.
I then had a bus transfer booked to Reykjavik with Grayline; and that was very smooth too.
Four days later, back again to KEF to fly to Copenhagen, early in the morning again, around 06:30.
Efficient and quick bag drop and check in; then lots of places to eat prior to boarding.
As someone else said, there are no boarding lounges; you line up in the main hall, and as soon as you go through a door, you are right onto the jet-way to the plane.
A week later, back from Copenhagen transferring to a flight to YVR.
This time, we had to climb down a slippery stair to the tarmac, and board a bus to the terminal.
Not too bad with crowds getting through the transfer area, fairly quick passport check; then another long walk to the gate for YVR.
Nowhere to sit at this gate, as very few seats were provided at all, and we got sort of mixed up with the line for a different flight.
I didn't have time to sit anyway, but discovered that the bathrooms were on the floor below, via escalator or lift; and there were lots of seats down there if need be, next to the large children's play area.
Back again onto a bus, and up the chilly stairs to the plane.
Keep your coat and gloves handy for outdoor boarding.
All in all, not the worst airport I've ever been in. I think Heathrow is the worst!
Iceland is just wonderful, and I sincerely hope it does not get over run with tourists.
Rick: don't write that guidebook!

Posted by
504 posts

thanks for your account of the airport in Iceland. Sounds like you had a much better experience than I did.

It does make a difference if you are traveling with another person. If I had had someone to watch my luggage, I might have taken a chance on finding the restrrooms. As it was, I was solo (and will be again in May) so I was afraid to "lose" my spot in line.

I did end up buying a ticket with no stops from Virgin Atlantic. I won't rule out Icelandair in the future, though.

Posted by
247 posts

For S Jackson, commenting on Iceland "...I sincerely hope it does not get over run with tourists..." - I suspect it's already too late. As I mentioned previously on a trip report, while flying from Oslo to KEF we sat next to a Icelandic native who volunteered to us, without any prompting, that she thought Iceland's tourist push has already been too successful. She said that more tourists were arriving than the infrastructure can handle properly and some tourists were not getting the experience they expected. That said, Iceland is an interesting place and is likely worth visiting if it's not too onerous for travelers. Let's all hope that they invest some of that tourist income into more & better facilities, including at KEF. Watching this topic space for future traveler comments is probably a good way to note when things are improving there.

Posted by
1816 posts

SandraL: I was on my own, and found it easy to navigate, find the bathroom, etc.
I always check my bag, so just have a small backpack and purse to carry thru the airport.