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Icelandair

We are planning a trip to Central Europe this fall. I have heard of using this airline when traveling to Europe and had not thought of it previously. Has anyone had experience flying with them? Any thoughts on ease of use, comfort, the stopover policy? Thanks.

Posted by
1120 posts

They are a delight because you can save money ! But you have to remember that they are a budget airline…..

That means you buy your food and drinks. Of course, we saved over $500 to fly with them on a recent flight to Europe, so we had a few extra dollars to buy snacks….

And we had a 10 hour layover in Iceland so we rented a car and drove everywhere, even going to the Blue Lagoon.

Posted by
533 posts

I've flown on Icelandair, but only to Iceland. A few impressions:

  • The flight from the US to Iceland is significantly shorter than one from the US to mainland Europe. That makes it harder to get anything resembling a night's sleep. When I arrived in Reykjavik I was completely wiped out in a way that I'm usually not when I fly to, say, London. Maybe it's different if you get off the plane in Iceland and get right on a connecting flight to sleep some more. But so far, I've been reluctant to fly via Iceland whenever I've had the option of a more direct flight to Europe.

  • As Carla says, unlike on other intercontinental flights, meals are not included. You get a bottle of water and whatever you want (nonalcoholic) from the drinks trolley, but if you want anything to eat, you have to pay for it.

  • Their seating configuration (at least on the flights I took) is 3-3, which feels a lot more crowded and uncomfortable on a long flight than something like 2-3-2.

Posted by
270 posts

Are you able to select your own seating, or is it assigned at random?

Posted by
491 posts

Pat, I am flying Icelandair to Rejkjavik and then to London in late May. I'm going economy class, and I was able to choose my own seat.

Also, there is an option to bid for an upgrade. Apparently the airline sends out emails a few days before the flight if there are available seats to bid for.

Posted by
270 posts

Thank you all. That helps a lot in helping us decide how we will travel.

Posted by
533 posts

You can choose your seats (for free) in advance of the flight, but for some reason we weren't automatically prompted to do so when we bought the tickets. By the time we realized we should be choosing our seats, most of them were already taken. So that's something to watch out for.

Posted by
1427 posts

I've flown Icelandair once previously, and I am flying them again next month.

The last time, I included a 5-night stopover. Now they have something called "Stopover Buddies," which sounds like a fun option.

Since I fly from the west coast, the flight times are much shorter. I don't think it's as significant a time savings if you're flying from the east coast, especially compared to a direct flight to your final destination.

I like saving money, I like the shorter flight. Living in Seattle, there are only a few options for direct flights to the mainland, so unless I'm going to Amsterdam, London, Paris, or Frankfurt, I'm going to have to make a connecting flight anyway. And the direct route from Seattle to most of Europe flies right over Iceland anyway. You can also make quicker connections at Keflavik airport than you would dare to do in most other European airports. And they have a nice personal entertainment system.

They have a generous checked baggage policy (2 bags if you book online), but a tight carry-on policy (maximum weight 22 lbs.)

You can select your seats when you book at icelandair.us.

Posted by
518 posts

I've taken Iceland air and can attest to the 3-3 seating feeling very cramped, unless you fly in business class. The thing to keep in mind though is that Icelandair has limited U.S. hubs, so if you are not flying directly out of one of these hubs, you would first need to fly to the hub. For example, live near San Francisco so I had to first fly from SFO to the nearest hub, which was Seattle. However, when you purchase your ticket form Icelandair they will ticket both flights for you, on the same ticket (you do not have to buy a separate ticket for the first leg on your own). Unfortunately, the airline they use for the first leg is Alaskan Air which is NOTORIOUS for delays. We originally had a 4-5 hour layover in Seattle and planned on spending some time down at Pike's Place for lunch. However, Alaska Airlines delayed multiple times, so much so that we almost missed the flight to Iceland.

I see that you are in Indiana. The nearest hub airport for Icelandair is Chicago, so depending on where in Indiana you are, you would need to have a flight to Chicago first.

Posted by
270 posts

This input is all so helpful! We are a group of three and will get together to finalize our plans next week.

Posted by
285 posts

Iceland Air is great for flying US to Europe. Their Economy class comfort is on par with other carriers, there is decent in-flight entertainment, you can use your own headphones, bring your own food and most of all the PRICE. I could not travel so much to Europe without Iceland Air's prices.

And I agree with Lane that those of us who can fly out of Seattle have a shorter flight. I believe it's that polar route that Iceland Air flies from the US west coast, versus other carriers who fly transcontinental US and then across the Atlantic.

Posted by
518 posts

I should also point out (as others have) that using Icelandair does help break up the journey. My flight to most European destinations (from SFO) can be a bit taxing. By flying Icelandair, it helps break it up. On the flip side, you'll have the added work of changing planes. So, keep these two things in mind in deciding what works best for you (other than budgetary reason) in terms of your comfort. The only time I took Icelandair was to take advantage of their included stop over thereby allowing me to visit both iceland and a European hub of my choosing, in this case, London. So my flight was:

San Francisco-Seattle-Iceland-London

Please note though, that when it's time to go home, you have to fly that same route, so if you're looking to hurry home, that's not going to happen as there would be TWO stopovers (again, depending on where you're located and whether or not you need the connecting flights).

Posted by
70 posts

Please note though, that when it's time to go home, you have to fly
that same route, so if you're looking to hurry home, that's not going
to happen as there would be TWO stopovers (again, depending on where
you're located and whether or not you need the connecting flights).

We are flying Icelandair next month and not taking the same route. Our trip is SEA-KEF-LHR but the return is CDG-KEF-SEA. So we are NOT flying the same route. I don't know if that's because we originate in Seattle without a connection and/or because we are staying in Iceland for a couple of days on arrival (but not departure) but we could make any arrangement we wanted.

Posted by
504 posts

We've flown on Iceland Air several times. Air travel is never fun anymore, at least not in our price range, but they are one of the better ones.

Posted by
658 posts

We're getting ready to take our fourth trip on IcelandAir in a couple of weeks and love the airline. Flying from Denver, we've always paid between $850 - $975 to fly into Paris, Amsterdam, and/or Munich - we think that's a great deal.

Along with your own food, make sure to bring your own headphones. If you forget them, they have them for sale on board. The first time we flew with them I was really worried about the 1 hour and 5 minute transfer time at Reykjavik, but we have never had any issues and always end up walking around the very small airport to kill some time.

One of the nicest things about flying through Iceland is that you go through passport control there so once you get to your final destination (as long as it's in the Schengen zone), you can just breeze out of the airport. The longest I've ever waited in the passport control lines at Reykjavik was less than 5 minutes.

Posted by
518 posts

"We are flying Icelandair next month and not taking the same route. Our trip is SEA-KEF-LHR but the return is CDG-KEF-SEA. So we are NOT flying the same route. I don't know if that's because we originate in Seattle without a connection and/or because we are staying in Iceland for a couple of days on arrival (but not departure) but we could make any arrangement we wanted."

Yes you are correct, I think in your case, both CDG and LHR are Icelandair hubs, so in terms of pricing/ticketing, maybe there is no difference. What I meant is that you have to fly back through KEF. In other words, you can't fly from the European hub (be it CDG , LHR, etc.) directly back to the States.

Posted by
7977 posts

I have used Iceland Air my last 2 times going to Sacramento. Quick flight from Frankfurt to Iceland, 40 min. layover, 7+ hours to Seattle, then Alaska Air to Cal. Returning to Europe, that flight from Seattle to Iceland is only 6.5 hours. If the weather is clear, you get a stunning view for the whole flight.

I think their seats are comfortable and it feels like they have more space for your feet. Because they aren't doing full service meals the one aisle isn't blocked for a long time which happens on the larger planes. You get water, coffee, soda or juice for free. We pack sandwiches and bring our earphones.

Also, because they don't have the huge planes, they load up quicker and deplane quicker. I'll take that any day over the planes with the 3-5-3 rows of seating. It is nice to pick your seats out at no extra cost and you can check 2 bags for free.

Posted by
491 posts

@MS. Jo--They will let you bring sandwiches on board? That's good. Can they be ones you packed from home, or do they have to be purchased in the airport after you go through the TSA checkpoint? Thanks!

Posted by
4889 posts

So we have one poster who doesn't like Icelandair because the KEF stop interrupts his sleep on the way to Europe, and one who likes it because the KEF stop breaks up the long flight from the US west coast. I'd love to sleep well enough on planes to have the first problem, but I like Icelandair partly because of the KEF stop, and mostly because of the lower fares. It's worth noting that if you're on the west coast and your destination is in northern Europe, but not London or Paris or Amsterdam or Frankfurt, you may be able to fly there on Icelandair with only one change in user-friendly KEF instead of one of the big European hubs. We flew Icelandair to Manchester on one trip and visited northern England and Scotland without going near London. I see that they now also fly into Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Birmingham.

I also want to share our experience with cancellations due to volcanic activity in Iceland. This happened to us twice while we were in Europe -- the first time in 2010 when the ash closed down most transatlantic flying for several weeks. After the transatlantic nonstop resumed, Icelandair was still cancelling because the volcano was preventing use of KEF. But they booked us on an Air France nonstop that got us home within half an hour of our original schedule. A year later we had a similar problem flying out of Manchester, and they booked us quickly on alternative flights. So I highly recommend their customer service. And I recommend you don't fly Icelandair when we do because we seem to trigger their volcanoes! ;-)

Another post on this board, "France Trip Report," describes an Icelandair flight to Paris and a less than ideal transfer at KEF. We haven't had experiences like that, but found that passing through the Schengen border control at KEF saves us time at the other end.

Posted by
73 posts

Icelandair was really the first budget airline to Europe. My Dad heard about them and we flew them several times from JFK. I first flew them as a kid in 1972. Back then it was called Icelandic Loftleider. In those days you got a meal and real silverware even. You went through the small airport in Keflavik and then on to their main European hub in Luxembourg. We flew DC-8's on the Transatlantic routes back then. In '77 we took the package deal where you went into Reykjavik for a night/day tour and then on to Luxembourg. Luxembourg City was a nice small city and we would often stay there a night to get past the jet lag and then rent a car and go to Ulm, Germany where we have relatives.

Ohh, on that first flight in 1972 we were held up at JFK for hours because a VIP (Bobby Fischer) was expected on the plane, to travel to the World Chess Championship in Reykjavik against Boris Spassky. Bobby never made it that night and we were finally in the air around midnight.

FYI, another option nowadays if you are taking Icelandair to Reykjavik is to catch an EasyJet flight from there to a European location. This would only apply for people who were planning a few days in Iceland first , but it might make economic since if continuing on then.

Posted by
1 posts

We flew on Icelandair to take advantage of the free stopover program for our honeymoon to go to France for a week with a 3-day stopover in Reykjavic at the end.

On the way out, our flight was delayed 2.5 hours. The crew was not forthcoming with information as the delays mounted. Once we boarded they insisted that we would "make up time" and be fine. They refused to give any information. During landing, they would not provide information about our connection, which of course meant that we missed our flight, as we were 30 minutes late for our 745am departure. I don't know specifically, but it seemed like dozens of people were on our connection and missed the flight. The customs officer remarked to us at passport check that this seems to happen quite frequently with Icelandair. Any information that you see about short connections being a problem or that they will hold a departure for a late arrival with numerous connecting passengers does not square with our experience.

Then, they rebooked all of us on a 1am flight and gave us hotel vouched even though we had to be back at the airport around 10pm. We were sent to the wrong hotel and then sent to a hotel that didn't have availability. This was how we started our honeymoon.

If that wasn't enough, on our return trip, we were diverted from Chicago ORD to Minneapolis in-flight after circling around ORD for awhile without getting much information from the crew. Upon landing in Minneapolis, we sat on the runway for two hours before regulations forced them to deplane the passengers. Our plane had to be towed into the gate, but they were not forthcoming about the equipment failure other than that they couldn't get the engine to start. They were not able to get the plane to fly afterwards and did not provide any information about an alternate plane or flight.

Further, they did not have hotels available so once the passengers deplaned, everyone was stranded without information or vouchers for hotels or cabs near Midnight. After a couple hours, and most people had left to figure out accommodations on their own with many others sleeping at the airport, they finally arranged for hotels.

My wife and I rebooked onto a Southwest Airlines flight as we still did not receive information on any type of return flight timeline. As of this review, we still haven't been even offered reimbursement for rebooking onto another airlines.

The resolution to all of this was that they had another plane fly out nearly 24 hours later and it was 12 hours or so before any information about that flight was even provided.

I can't more strongly recommend against booking onto Icelandair as a result of the lack of communication about delays, leaving the flight on the runway when the engine wasn't working, the failure to provide support to passengers and the variety of other issues associated with twice being stranded.

Posted by
9 posts

We traveled on Icelandair 3 years ago - Seattle to Paris. As the plane was ready to take off in Seattle, they discovered something was wrong with one of the exit doors. Everyone had to de-plane. We had to wait while the flight that had just flown in from Iceland was cleaned and prepared for us to fly out on. As a result we missed our Paris connection in Reykjavik. They put us up in one of their hotels which gave us a chance to sleep in a real bed, shower, and fed us two meals. We caught a midnight flight to Paris, arriving about 8:00 AM. We had rented an apartment and were able to contact that host to let him know of the delay - but we missed an evening and night in Paris. I sent an e-mail to Icelandair and asked them to reimburse us for the night's lodging in the apartment that we missed out on because of their equipment problem. I had a check from Icelandair in less then two weeks for the night in the apartment. They did not ask for any documentation or anything, just took my word on what we had paid in advance for the apartment. I agree that the 3 & 3 seat arrangement seems tight - but when we have that arrangement my husband and I always take aisle seats across from each other which seems to give us more space. The blankets they offer are really heavy and warm!