In February, I moved down to London to start a new job and as I commute on the Tube daily, noticed several posters advertising city breaks in Reykajvik, Iceland. I love travelling, especially to different or unusual places, and Iceland is somewhere I'd often thought of going. I therefore decided to look into making a trip there, and as I was able to secure the first full week in April off work, proceeded to investigate further.
The posters advertising Reykjavik city breaks were from Icelandair, Iceland's national airline. On investigation I found it was possible to book breaks on the website incorporating flights, hotel and excursions and this is what I decided to do. I'd never booked a package holiday before, previously preferring to book travel and hotels independently, but I did enjoy this very simple way of doing things.
Icelandair aims to be the airline of choice for travel to and from Iceland and hopes to be an attractive hub for travel over the North Atlantic, particularly for those travelling on business. The UK website can be found at www.icelandair.co.uk.
***Booking through the website***
I found the website easy to navigate and had no trouble selecting the flights, hotel and excursions I wanted. Descriptions of the hotel (I chose the Liefur Eriksson Hotel) and the excursions were clear and accurate. The website offers a facility to retrieve a previous booking and add on excursions to it, a useful tool that I made use of as I wanted to secure my flight and hotel before making decisions about which excursions to take. I ended up retrieving my booking and booking onto the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon tours with only a week to go before my trip. I also chose to book a seat in the Flybus Plus which transfers you from and to the airport, dropping you off and picking you up at your hotel. As the only other way to get from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik was by expensive taxi, this was really a necessity.
My return flight, 4 night hotel stay and return Flybus Plus trip came to £399, which I felt was very reasonable. The excursions I added later came to around £80-£90.
My only gripe with the website was that as I was in the middle of booking something, an error message would often appear and I would have to start again. Luckily this never happened when I was in the middle of making a payment, so it didn't cause any serious problems, but it was rather annoying.
After booking my trip, I had my e-ticket and itinerary emailed to me. I printed both out to take with me as requested, but found I was seldom required to produce it as all I had to do was state my name and get it checked off a list. From checking in at the airport to checking in at my hotel and going off on excursions, everything was very efficient, on time and well-organised with minimum stress and fuss on my part.
***Flying with Icelandair***
I flew from Heathrow Airport, Terminal 1. I must admit one of the reasons I wanted to go to Iceland was that I now live in West London and can catch the Heathrow Connect train from my local tube station which gets me to Heathrow in 20 minutes. It would be crazy of me not to make the most of this. I left the house just before 9.30 am and had arrived at the airport by just after ten ready to check in for my 1pm flight.
As requested I had printed out my e-ticket but the lady at the check-in desk didn't need to see it, she only needed my passport. On reflection this makes sense as they have the record of my booking, they can see that the details I gave match my passport - so why would a ticket be necessary? Really, why is a ticket ever necessary to travel on a plane? Anyway, I digress. Check-in was straightforward and efficient, particularly as I was at the front of the queue, having got there so early. I got my boarding pass and headed through security, spending some time wandering around duty free before going to board the plane at the appointed time. The whole procedure was simple and there isn't anything remarkable to mention about the process. I was pleased to see I had a whole row of three seats to myself - the plane wasn't empty by any means, but it certainly wasn't full, although there were several families and a group of what I took to be schoolgirl members of a sports team, wearing identical red hoodies.
The flight took around three hours and was straightforward and uneventful. Announcements were made in both English and Icelandic, as might be expected, and cabin crew seemed friendly although I didn't speak to them much. I didn't use the plane toilet so I can't comment on this. Leg room seemed standard as far as I could see - I am quite tall with long legs so always find that you never get quite enough leg room, but this is true of any airline. Seats were comfortable enough although on my return journey I was extremely irritated by the person in front of me who couldn't seem to make his mind up whether he wanted his seat upright or leaning back. I was tempted to give him a clout on the head but refrained - so can't tell you how the cabin crew would have dealt with this situation!
In terms of food and drink, soft drinks were complimentary but food had to be paid for. This seemed a shame as I've been on three hour flights before where food was provided, but for the price of the flight (which I estimate to be between £200 and £300, though I can't tell it precisely as I booked the flights and hotel together) it wasn't wholly unreasonable. I didn't buy any as I'd purchased a Boots Meal Deal in the departure lounge, but it seemed nice enough and no more expensive than usual airline food.
As far as entertainment was concerned, there were screens on the backs of the seats offering a choice of TV shows and films. There was a small selection of around 10 films, mostly English-speaking blockbusters (though there were a few Icelandic films), some recent like The King's Speech and some older like Romeo and Juliet. I didn't bother with these, preferring to read my book, and kept the screen on the map showing the plane's progress from London to Reykjavik, which I always find fascinating to look at. Headphones were not provided free of charge, you had to pay for them or use your own. Luckily I would guess most people would have headphones with a mp3 player already - it seems a shame to have to pay for them.
On arrival, it was a simple matter to disembark and collect my baggage. Keflavik Airport (where the vast majority of Iceland's international flights arrive) is very small and easy to navigate. The Flybus was waiting just outside to take passengers to their hotels (I'd booked this as part of my package, as it works out cheaper than taking a taxi), and I was also able to change money at the airport.
On my return, I had to book my seat in the Flybus Plus the day before by asking reception at my hotel. This was done with no problems and the bus arrived on time. I changed to the larger coach at the bus station and got to the airport in plenty of time along with the other passengers. Self-service check-in desks are available at Keflavik Airport, but I didn't bother with them as the normal check-in desks were quick enough. Going through security was stress-free (Iceland has the same rules as the UK regarding carrying liquids in containers of no more than 100ml in plastic bags in hand luggage) and I had time to look around the departure lounge and make a few purchases before boarding the plane.
Overall I am very happy with my experience of Icelandair. The website was informative and easy to navigate, the flights, hotel and excursions I booked through them value for money, and everything ran very smoothly together with the minimum of fuss and stress. Apart from the niggling problems with the website, everything was fine. Similarly, the flights were on time, stress-free and comfortable though it seems a shame to have to pay for food and headphones. These minor niggles mean I can't really give Icelandair 5 stars, but I can happily give them 4 and I do recommend them.
HORRIBLE CUSTOMER SERVICE!!! For our 6.5 hour flight home from Europe I was seated next to an extremely obese lady who literally took up half of my seat as well, and my leg was dripping with sweat off of her leg. They were lucky I am of tiny stature, there is no way even a normal sized person would have fit in my half of a seat. As the plane was full, we talked to the sterwardess about issuing a refund for my long uncomfortable trip home, who assured us their customer service was fantastic and they would definately do something about it... Apparently that was just to keep us quiet the rest of the trip, because phone call after phone call they said they were still looking into the matter, and finally today, nearly 6 months after the trip the email saying it is not their fault and will not be doing anything.
I was recently lucky enough to be able to go on a school excursion to Iceland, (P.s It was awesome, a lovely place to visit.) We went from heathrow to Keflavik.
Anyway, unfortunately, this means I have no idea how the buying/transaction of tickets/ communicating with Iceland Air was, although from listening to teachers conversations, and the fact that the school have used this airline before, that Iceland Air was fairly easy to use.
Anyway, I found the planes to be comfortable, the seats were a bit squishy, but not too squashed that it was uncomfortable. The toilet was acceptable, (there's no other words for airline toilets really). The plane was very clean, very clean actually, compared to some planes I've been on. Also there was mini touch screen thingies on the seat infront which you could play with. This had games (although you had to get a 'game pad' for this which I never saw offered around), quite alot of music old and new, and all sorts of tv/films, on the flight back everyone found Avatar and got excited, although I found the 3 episodes of Family guy to be much more interesting.
The flight was very good, quick, and the staff were very helpful, I managed to lose my Ipod, and the staff said thet would look out for it, (It eventually found in my friends pocket). The bag collecting bit was quite easy, I didn't notice anyone who had lost their bags, and from watching through the window, they didn't just 'chuck' the bags in the plane, like some plane staff do.
I would reccomend this company, thay seemed extremely professional, and I found the whole flight to be a very pleasant experience (despite my almost losing my ipod).
Iceland Air is the worst airline that I have ever dealt with. I live in Europe and travel to the states and Asia frequently, so I have flown with almost everyone. And Iceland Air was the absolute worst (yes as bad as Aeroflot).They left me stranded in Frankfurt without an explanation and only grudgingly refunded my money (and not even all of it!) They were very rude and when I asked to speak to a manager, they never got back to me.It wasn't even that cheap really.
I travelled with Icelandair earlier this week on a short break. They are offering some good short break deals at the moment, we got return flights (from Heathrow), three nights at a hotel and an excursion to the Golden Circle (area close to Reykjavik which includes an amazing waterfall, Gulfoss, the original hot springs area - Geysir and Thingvellir which has both geological and historical importance) . We paid £239 for this deal which was good value.
The flight with Icelandair was disappointing in some regards, the fight is 3 hours long and you only get free soft drinks. You have to pay extra for food. Our flight left at 1pm and I'd expected to get lunch so was a shame as I could have bought a sandwich at the airport. The food range was limited but wasn't too expensive. I had a ham & cheese croissant for £2.
They have seat back entertainment, various music, film, TV and games options but you have to buy the headphones to use it. However it has a normal jack so easy to use your own headphones. On the way out I used their Berlitz language programme, a fun way to pass the time learning the language of the country you are visiting. On the way back I watched a rom-com 'The Proposal' which was diverting and fun. None of the films were particularly recent but a good variety of films.
The staff were pleasant and there were no issues on the plane.
On our return journey we checked in on a machine at the airport and then dropped off our baggage. This was very speedy, we did the whole check in process in less than 10 minutes and were through security in another 5 minutes.
To conclude an adequate no-frills airline, if you are travelling with them remember to take food on the plane with you or eat at the airport before flying.
The whole subject of Iceland may be a bit controversial at the moment, but let me give a little information about the country's national airline.
Icelandair has been flying in various forms since 1937. The name Icelandair has been in use since 1973. Their home airport is Keflavik airport in southwest Iceland, about 40 minutes from Reykjavik.
A lot of people fly with Icelandair if they are flying to the US, as they offer one of the cheapest business class options to cross the Atlantic. That arrangement involves changing planes (or a stopover) in Iceland. Their business class product isn't quite up to the same standard as most trans-Atlantic airlines.
The vast majority of their planes are Boeing 757's, configured with 6 seats per row in economy, 4 in business.
I found using one of the online travel agents was the slightly cheaper option when booking flights with Icelandair, but you can book flights directly on their website. As with all airlines, book in advance if you can and the prices aren't bad, you might expect them to be worse considering the lack of competition that they have when flying to Iceland.
There doesn't appear to be an online checkin option, so you'll need to check in at the airport. If you're flying from Keflavik then there are self checkin kiosks, you may want to use these as the lines at Keflavik for checkin can be quite long and slow. The self checkin will even print the luggage labels for your bags, which you then take to the baggage drop off that doesn't seem to have a queue.
They're not responsible for the airport, but if you're flying with the airline you will almost certainly be passing through Keflavik. It's a nice modern airport, usual array of shops. Prices aren't too bad at the moment, but they were very high before the currency problems! You can get a bus from the airport to Reykjavik, a flybus service operates outside the terminal after every flight.
One gripe with the airline is that the floor area never seems to be clean. I'm not expecting to eat off it, but it would be nice if they made some effort at least! The seats are comfortable enough in economy for a 3 hour flight from the UK, if you're used to flying budget airlines you'll find that your knees aren't hitting the seat in front like you're used to.
If you're lucky enough to be in a business seat it's a nice big seat, reasonable recline, but not what you'd be expecting from long-haul airlines, the space between the seats isn't so generous as those. It is much more comfortable than business class in Europe though (BA Club Europe for example).
The entertainment system varies by plane. Some have the old TV's suspended from the ceiling, so you'll be sharing a movie choice with the rest of the cabin, some of the others have a nice on-demand system, operated via a touchscreen in the back of the seat in front. In my experience you'll find 12 movies, 12 epsidoes of sit coms (Malcolm in the Middle, The Simpsons and My Name is Earl when I flew), documentaries and games too. There's even a USB port in the seat for you to plug in a PS3 controller (I think it's for PS3 controllers). I believe you can bring your own or rent one on board. They'll provide earphones for free, but you'll probably want to use your own.
I've heard mixed reports about the food. I've had a warm ham omelet for breakfast, a strange potato salad with a slice of processed turkey for a later meal. Other people I know have had a baked cheese twist or something similar. They'll serve tea, coffee and soft drinks for free, but expect to pay for anything containing alcohol.
With a flight of 3 to 3.5 hours you wouldn't expect to see the cabin crew much. Basically you seen them when they drop off your food, when they serve your drink and when they take away your rubbish. They do make a fast run through the cabin later on with the duty free trolley. The staff are friendly, so I'm sure if you needed an extra drink they'd be happy to oblige :-)
So in conclusion I'd happily recommend Icelandair if you're travelling to Iceland. I don't think I'd be using them to travel trans-Atlantic however. They are in the process of refitting some of their aircraft to have 3 classes, to include an economy plus section. If I travelled on one of these I didn't notice, but maybe they are the ones with the on-demand entertainment. They fly from London Heathrow, Manchester and Glasgow in the UK
<review also posted on ciao>
What do you want from an airline?
Well, my top requirements are:
1 - arriving safely (preferably with my luggage);
2 - not being ripped off;
3 - friendly staff;
4 - decent food; and
5 - something good to watch never goes a miss.
Icelandair really pushes all the buttons. We have travelled with them a couple of times, flying from Heathrow to Keflavik, and they arrived safely and early both times.
The service is exactly what you'd hope for - really good (what you'd imagine British Airways would be like - until you've flown with British Airways!). The staff are friendly and attentive.
The flights are reasonably priced - especially given the distance that you're flying.
The food is remarkably good - actually nice to eat - not just good for a airline!
And the films have been up to date and good.
One other joy of flying to Iceland is the possibility of sitting near someone from Iceland - lovely people who are always ready to tell you where's good to go/eat/drink.
I couldn't recommend Icelandair highly enough - I even bought on Icelandair bear on my last trip as a souvenir! :o)
I have taken Icelandair on several occasions, from Europe to the states and have never been disappointed. The service is always excellent on-board and the planes quite fresh and clean. And you may stop in Iceland for up to three days with no fee (very nice in summer). I've flown them from Amsterdam, Heathrow and, in my poor student days, Luxembourg (they've pulled out of LUX in favour of Paris). At all times I've been pleased by Icelandair's efficiency, the simple-but-edible food, and the comfort of seating. If you're crossing the atlantic, you will de-plane in Keflavik, which is about 45 minutes outside Rekjavik and fairly barren. The aeroterminal is small but well-maintained and very clean: the cafes and restaurants take all major currencies and there are interesting shops. I've never had to wait more than 70 minutes between flights and everything is very well planned. I've flown British, American, Air France, Sabena, KLM, Lufthansa, and Continental on international flights, but I would fly Icelandair before any of these, given the chance. If only they flew into Brussels!
To be honest, I only flew once with Icelandic Air to meet a business partner in Reykjavik in Island, and I was appalled by the flight itself. Not only was the airplane delayed several hours at Heathrow, I arrived 1 1/2 hours early. My baggage was checked in, and then was on the wrong flight (more about that later). My ticket at the gate had to be checked by three people before they let me on the plane, and then in the plane they double booked my seat, and subsequently the other person was upgraded. After spending 25minutes waiting for a place on the runway, we had to wait another hour when there was trouble with the engines. We were offered a free airline voucher, but it was for items on board 'if you spend' so much. After a rather dismal takeoff, it was in the air for three hours. We hit a storm, which disrupted the flight path, and the only thing with a nutritional value was the plastic forks we were give that came with the meal. The on-board entertainment was absolutely appalling - all old episodes that I had seen before and only really weird radio stations could be picked up from my terminal. I was surrounded in my seat by football fans, ranting, chanting and the like, and then we had to stack for about 30 minutes at the airport, coming into land. My baggage didn't turn up at the airport - it was on a flight to Hamburg, Germany. I subsequently got it back 3 weeks later, with my laptop and personal notebook in, but it was delivered to my next-door neighbour. My associate that was waiting for be had left some time ago, leaving notice for me at the reception area. All in all, it was the worst flight experience I've ever had due to a combination of bad luck, malco-ordinated flight people at the airport and muddled up records on computers. I really wish these people would get their act together, because I'll only fly with them if their standards improve. IJC
I recently flew on a chartered Iceland air plane to Greece which had (with no explanation) replaced the Air Scandic plane we should have had. The plane was tatty on the inside, the TV screens weren't working properly and were out of focus. The captain's accent was difficult to understand at times and the food was the worst airplane food I have ever tasted. The mushrooms in the breakfast were wrinkly! I wouldn't chose to fly with them again. What's worse is when I arrived in Manchester for some reason the Airway thing to unload the plane wasn't working. What did the air steward do? Reassure us we would be able to get off the plane soon? No. We heard a "whoosh" sound and looked out of the window to see the steward in charge of the cabin crew had opened the emergency exit, activating the shute. I was sat next to a poor elderly lady who looked terrified at the prospect of sliding down this thing. Fortunately the other cabin crew members talked him out of the idea of getting us all to slide out. Other passengers travelling in the previous weeks to me had also been delayed for between 6 and 16 hours for technical problems with the plane. Not very reassuring.
I have often flown with Icelandair and have never been disappointed. They almost always take of at the right times. The service onboard is excellent. You can watch movies and television shows (like friends) free and it is also 10 radio channels onboard, also free. The captain keep you well informed about the flight and warn you if it unquietness in the air. The food could be better, but also worse. The comfort is not better or worse than in the average planes. If you were going to America from Europe in the future I would recommend it straight out.
In the old days, when I were nowt but a lad, transatlantic plane trips could only be accomplished by refuelling at obscure places like Gander, Shannon etc. Now, of couse, the entire continent of North America can be reached in a single bound, so it may surprise you that you anyone might choose to travel from UK to North America via Iceland. Firstly, because Icelanair is not a member of the IATA price fixing cartel, it is often cheaper than more conventional airlines. Secondly, how else would you get the chance for a stopover and sight seeing trip in this delightful and interesting off the beaten track country?