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Those middle of the night layovers

I'm considering Icelandair or Aer Lingus for a trip to London in 2017. What concerns me a bit is a 1 hour 50 minute layover in either Iceland or Dublin in the middle of the night. I imagine I might be quite woozy by the time of the layover, and that worries me. Also, when I flew Icelandair coming back from London last June, the airport was a complete madhouse (it was around 4 p.m. and there were lots of connecting flights taking off). Would it be like that at, say, 6 a.m.?

If you've done this, how did you handle it? Were you coherent enough to function and get to your next plane? ;)

Of course, these are the most inexpensive flights, so I am quite tempted...

Thanks!

Posted by
6854 posts

Aren't most Icelandair flights "red eye", leaving around 10pm and landing in Iceland at 5am or 6am local time? I get in the habit of changing my watch before I depart to local time so that I automatically think in local time (that way you won't fret so much about it being in the middle of the night). Of course you'll not feel your best, but you just soldier on. At least at Keflavik, the airport is so small that I wouldn't worry at all with an almost 2 hour layover...you'll have time to eat something and have some coffee. Switching planes is a pretty low level activity - it doesn't require full coherence to execute correctly. I've done it many times half-asleep - just get to the right gate (always confirm there has been no gate change) and don't fall asleep in the chair and miss your connecting flight. That's pretty much all there is to it.

Consider what the alternative(s) are, as well as their cost, before writing off either Icelandair or Aer Lingus. If you can get a similarly priced direct flight, then of course that's better..but that is life, full of trade-offs.

Posted by
504 posts

Hi, Agnes--I should explain that my flight to Heathrow last year with Icelandair was switched to a nonstop one by United. So I only flew Icelandair coming back.

Yes, it is quite a tradeoff. Thanks for replying!

Posted by
6854 posts

Sandra,
You're basically asking how to manage jet lag...so I would say, get as much sleep as you can before the trip and also on the flight. Even if you get woken up for meals at some strange hour that feels like in the middle of the night, you'll feel out of it. But that's normal and nothing to worry about. You will make your connection even you're not 100% there...no worries. Millions of people are in the same boat. Think of our unfortunate Aussie visitors.. they must really go through the hoops to get to Europe. Layovers where your sleep gets disrupted are never fun, but I doubt anyone but business travelers (and that's not a given) gets solidly good, uninterrupted sleep on a plane anyway. You'll be fine, not to worry. Just think of all the fine meals and things you can do with your savings once on the ground.

Posted by
2883 posts

Years ago I flew Iceland Air a few times. I almost never fall asleep on planes...however, that being said, I would actually doze off on the shorter, later flight to Europe. I found the transfer time to be well organized and easy. The 'in the middle of the night' didn't bother me. The whole intent of IA is to change numerous flights in, onto numerous flights out, at relatively the same time. We thought they were quite efficient on the way to Europe. We didn't care on the way back. However, now I stick to a direct, day flight to Europe, which takes away all the sleepless misery. (However, I do toy with IA again sometimes due to the price, altho this year my BA flight cost $350.00, crazy!...) Check out British Airways to see if they have a day flight from your airport. I don't mind jet lag, which for me occurs on the 4th day, but being exhausted all day from being up all night is something I want to avoid whenever possible. I hate that feeling! Wray

Posted by
285 posts

Icelandair's red eye flights from the US normally get to Reykjavik around 5 or 6 am. The airport - in my experience - is very quiet then without huge crowds. Yes, there are arrivals and departures and plane changes, but due to the time of day it is very low key. Personally I don't consider 5 or 6 am to be the "middle of the night", as I'm up every day for work at 6 am, so maybe it's because I'm more attuned to waking up at that time of day that I don't find it stressful.

Posted by
2916 posts

We recently flew Icelandair from Boston to Paris, and the change in Iceland was very easy. You go through passport control and then follow the signs (and everyone else I think) to your connecting flight; it's pretty quick. But my suitcase must not have been good at following directions, because it spent the night at the airport.

Posted by
747 posts

I don't know about Iceland, but Dublin on Aer Lingus is a pretty easy change. You'll go through passport control and security, but everything is in Terminal 2 and fairly straightforward. We arrived about 5 a.m. and had about an hour and 45 minutes to change for our London flight last year and had plenty of time. Even if something went wrong, Aer Lingus has a bunch of flights to London, so the worst that happened is you get on the next flight in an hour or so. We're using Aer Lingus again next year for our trip to Italy, also changing in Dublin.

As far as being woozy and out of it, well, pretty much all you have to do is walk from point A to point B to point C. I think you can handle it just fine.

Posted by
504 posts

MrsEB: AerLingus is coming up at $791, IA at $810, and British Airways and United in the low $900s.

Ah, I miss the days when one could fly Virgin Atlantic RT for $500!

Posted by
11613 posts

Just set an alarm if you are concerned about dozing off. I also set my watch to destination time as soon as I board the plane, more helpful the closer you get to your arrival city.

Posted by
8064 posts

My last 4 flights with Icelandair only had 40-50 min. between flights. Just a matter of getting off the plane and getting on the next one. The airport is small enough that it is easy to see where your next flight will be.
That quick trans-Atlantic hop is what sells these flights to me. Only 6.5-7 hours between Seattle and Iceland are a winner.

Posted by
504 posts

I wonder if I just had rotten luck with Icelandair. Our plane was two hours late getting to Keflavik, and we were all so worried about getting our connecting flight to Newark that we all rushed to the gate. The bathrooms were supposedly at the other end of the airport, on another floor, and I couldn't bear the thought of walking all the way there. Also, I had been counting on getting something to eat at the airport, but there was no time thanks to the two-hour delay. Overall, it was an unpleasant experience. I've been reading on other forums that Keflavik sees much more traffic than it used to, and therefore, things are really disorganized.

I'm starting to lean toward non-stop, just to save myself some stress.

Posted by
6854 posts

Sandra,
You only have one data point. How can you generalize from a single data point? I wouldn't be surprised if Keflavik is getting more traffic since Iceland Air has expanded aggressively into new cities, but still...you have only one experience there. I am thinking you worry too much about future scenarios that may or may not come to pass. Either way, even if your plane was late, you would get home (perhaps later than you want to)..but not worth stressing over things out of your control. If you have some food with you just in case, that will effectively minimize some stress in case the connection ends up being a bit tighter than you'd like.

Posted by
504 posts

Agnes, You sound just like my husband! That is exactly what he would say. And you are absolutely correct. I'm a worry-wart.

Posted by
6854 posts

Sandra,
You're a very sweet worry-wart though. Please don't worry so much. You're gonna have another great trip under your belt! All this pre-trip stuff will seem very minor after the fact, I promise. In the grand scheme of things, it's the trip memories of all the sites you're gonna see and things you end up doing that will remain with you. Best of luck getting a good-priced ticket and have some fun with your planning.

If you ever get the chance, try to take advantage of Icelander's layover (they allow up to seven days practically free stay - meaning on the same flight ticket - so that people on the way to Europe will visit Iceland). The trip to the Blue Lagoon is itself worth the layover...so much fun!

Posted by
384 posts

I kid Icelandair a lot -- I understand cannibalism on their food-free trans-Atlantic flights is down over 11% since 2015 -- but my experience with them was no worse than flying domestic on Southwest.

Also, don't forget you're crossing timezones on your flight, so from the time you're done pushing the plane to the taxiway at 4:00pm in Seattle, to the time you're being Macht Schnelled off of the plane in Iceland at 6:00am local time only ~7 hours have elapsed. So in reality, it's 11:00pm to your body. It's that extra four hours from Iceland to anyplace good that really screws with your body's clock. Come noon landing at Heathrow or 1:00pm at the ever-efficient CDG, your body is wondering why you're up at 3:00am and when will it be nappy-nap time?

For the person who was asking about the short layover at 6:00am Iceland time, there was enough of an interval for us to go to the bathroom, grab some food and sit in the lounge awaiting our departing flight. I wouldn't have call it a madhouse, more like somewhat-controlled chaos.

Posted by
259 posts

I just came back from a trip to London where we used Icelandair to get there and we were in Iceland at 6am on a Thursday morning connecting to Heathrow. We had about the same layover as you'll have and though the airport was pretty crowded but it was so small that we had no trouble connecting. The main issue at that airport is the lack of seating at the gates so be ready to stand waiting for them to call your flight. I can tell you that all stores and restaurants were open at that time.

Posted by
504 posts

Joe, yes, I noticed that lack of seating. Everywhere I looked, people were standing.