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Guest Review: Flying Icelandair from Seattle to France

Icelandair's Boeing 757 sits at Seattle, waiting to be towed to its gate. Photo by Ben Whalen / AirlineReporter.com

Icelandair's Boeing 757 sits at Seattle, waiting to be towed to its gate. Photo by Ben Whalen / AirlineReporter.com

My friend Ben recently made the trip from Seattle to France and had a number of choices to going. After quite a bit of research (and many questions to me) he decided on trying out Icelandair, which flies from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to Keflavík International Airport (KEF) before changing planes and flying to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). Since I have never flown on Icelandair, I asked him to write a review for me. Here is his Icelandair review in his own words:

ICELANDAIR REVIEW: SEATTLE TO PARIS

I bought the ticket online today, February 2nd, 2012 and the online process was a bit confusing. They first have you select your home airport and then the dates which are all simple enough.

This however is a bit confusing when you are used to the mm/dd/yyyy format, which most people use in the US. Icelandair has theirs in the dd/mm/yyyy format making me have to triple check that I was flying on April 7th not July 4th. Then unlike other websites where you can type in the airport code CDG for example I had to type the city name Paris. Okay, maybe these are not the biggest deals, but first impressions matter.

The rest of the ordering was simple enough. On the flight to Paris, I chose the cheaper economy class and on the way back it was only $47 more for the economy comfort. I figured it was worth the extra money to check out the differences. I was able to choose my seats for all of the legs except one where it showed no seats available, which is always annoying.

The economy class and economy comfort has a 3-3 layout. Photo by Benjamin Whalen / AirlineReporter.com

The economy class and economy comfort has a 3-3 layout. Photo by Benjamin Whalen / AirlineReporter.com

It is now April 7th, the day of my flight. I show up a few hours early and head to check in. Although they run only one flight per day out of Seattle, the airline had their own ticket counter with three lines: Economy, Comfort and Saga.

Because I was a bit early, there was no line and the front counter lady was extremely nice, checked my passport, and tagged up my luggage. My passport was in a cover and she organized my tickets and baggage claim tickets nicely in the different compartments then could tell by my fresh passport that I likely have not flown from the international terminal recently (wait Ben… “recently” wasn’t your last international flight like 13yrs ago? – David) and gave me directions.

I go through security and was disappointed that the body scanners weren’t operating; I was hoping to show off. My flight departed from the S-Terminal, so I the short train ride over. When I arrived at the gate the plane was parked across just sitting by itself away from the terminal.

Later, I found out that the flight from Iceland to Seattle lands an hour after the one from Seattle to Iceland leaves so one of their 757s sits on the ground 23 hours every day. About an hour before boarding they towed my aircraft to the gate.

Boarding was pretty painless and typical. They load first class (Saga) first then fill from the back.

Each seat has its own in-flight entertainment system, although I wish there were more options. Photo by Benjamin Whalen / AirlineReporter.com

Each seat has its own in-flight entertainment system, although I wish there were more options. Photo by Benjamin Whalen / AirlineReporter.com

It was a full flight but I didn’t have any trouble getting my stuff in the overhead bin. Everyone had a pillow and blanket on their seats and the IFE system displayed fun facts about Iceland such as the prime ministers phone number is listed in the phone book and that every Icelander can trace their family back to the original settlers.

As we were taxing, the IFE system started working. You could pay $4 for headphones provided by the airline or use your own. The IFE consists of about 30 movies and 11 TV shows, but they most only showed the pilot episodes. I thought this would be plenty, but after 24 hours in the air (round trip), my choices felt quite limited.

The food service started as soon as we started to level off. Being fairly close to the front of the economy section, I only had to wait about 15 minutes to get my food and beverage. But the food doesn’t come free and everyone must pay, which takes time.

You have to pay for the food, but it isn't too bad. Photo by Benjamin Whalen / AirlineReporter.com

You have to pay for the food, but it isn't too bad. Photo by Benjamin Whalen / AirlineReporter.com

After choosing the main hot meal and a beer, the flight attendant said it would cost twenty four hundred — uh WHAT? At first she thought I was being cheap but then realized I was just an ignorant American and gave me the cost in US currency — $18. Not too cheap. I noticed that a good majority of people declined a meal and drink.

Upon arrival in Iceland I had 50 minutes before the next leg of my trip to Paris. We were led off the plane through a series of passageways and then we had to go through security again. The downside to this is I had a liter of water in a Nalgene bottle I had filled up in Seattle and it was chug it or lose it. There was no opportunity to dump it out.

Once through security and getting my passport stamped into Iceland, I still had time to check out the gift shop before heading to my gate (thanks for not getting me anything –David). Boarding in Iceland was a bit different. The gates were just in the hallways and the flights weren’t announced. Because it was a hallway, people just naturally were lined up and they just started boarding without announcing anything. The remaining leg of the flight was pretty uneventful.

Upon arrival in Paris we disembarked and by the time I made it to the baggage claim I only had to wait two minutes for my bag to arrive.

The signs diving the different classes can be moved to offer quite a bit of versitility. Photo by Benjamin Whalen / AirlineReporter.com

The signs diving the different classes can be moved to offer quite a bit of versatility. Photo by Benjamin Whalen / AirlineReporter.com

BACK HOME, PARIS TO SEATTLE ON ICELANDAIR

The check-in process was a bit odd in France. The notes on the ticket for comfort Economy stated there would be a separate check-ins, however there was only Economy and Saga check-in. After 20 minutes in line the gate agent was quite abrupt and told me to stop when he was the next free agent. When he finally let me approach and after a minute of looking at my passport he just handed me a ticket and pointed to the security line.

I thought his abruptness may have been a language barrier thing as I am non-French speaker in France but then I heard him speak fine English to the next person asking questions.

When buying my ticket for this leg there were no seat options available. Turns out I got put in seat 4A, which was actually a Saga class seat. I was able to sit in the 2-2 Saga class, but still received Economy Comfort level of service. There were moveable signs on the seat backs marking the separation from Saga and Economy Class seats.

The Saga seats were plush with plenty of leg room the info card said 39″ pitch in first class, 33″ in comfort and 32″ in coach. The only other difference I noted was a much nicer pillow. It was not a bad deal having a Saga Class seat with a lower level of service.

Food in economy comfort is free, except for spirits and champagne. I had the sandwich of the day which was a chicken and a cheese thing, a gull beer, and an Icelandic milk chocolate bar. All of which tasted decent (I say this after spending a week dining on French cuisine).

I was able to sit in Saga Class, which has a 2-2 layout, but still received Economy Comfort service. Photo by Benjamin Whalen / AirlineReporter.com

I was able to sit in Saga Class, which has a 2-2 layout, but still received Economy Comfort service. Photo by Benjamin Whalen / AirlineReporter.com

After landing back in Iceland, I had 90minutes and was excited to check out the lounge that you have access to with an upgraded ticket. We were guided out of the plane and directed through passport control after which I could easily locate my gate however could not find the lounge.

The airport at KEF looks very simple and clean with hardwood and glass everywhere. The challenging part is there is not much seating at the gates which are long hallways so people are standing around crowded a bit.

This time I was in an actual comfort class seat it is an economy seat with an inch more leg room and the center seat has a tray folded down. I got lucky with my seat being 9C because it was by the loading door and gave me an extra four feet of leg room. If you get this seat, I suggest boarding last, since I had the whole plane squeezing by me as they boarded.

The seven hour flight from Iceland to Seattle was pretty uneventful, which I prefer on a flight. We landed on time even after taking off a few minutes later than scheduled.

Overall I would recommend Iceland air when traveling to Europe. They seem to have the scheduling down for very short layovers. Their whole fleet is 757s which seems to take less time to load. If you choose economy either plan to pay for the food or pack your own. The only other downside is their IFE is quite limited I watched all the tv shows and most of the movies. If the ticket is not much more, I wold suggest springing for economy comfort. It gets you much better service more legroom and not having to fight over the shared armrest.

17 comments to Guest Review: Flying Icelandair from Seattle to France

  • Andrew

    Isn’t the idea behind flying Iceland Air to Europe to do a stopover in Iceland? It was my understanding you could choose that as part of the booking process and they made it pretty easy/encouraged it.

  • andy

    Icelandair leave a plan out of revenue for 23 hours? Why not do what BA does – land around 430pm and depart around 630pm – seems like Icelandair is losing a lot of money just having a plane sit there.

  • Rohit

    David, what are the implications of a foreign airline parking at Seattle airport for 23 hours? What would the cost difference be if the airline parked for say, 2 to 3 hours?

  • RH Hastings

    What’s the issue with “French cuisine?”

  • Arcanum

    FYI, d/m/y is the format used by most of the world outside of the US. If this is really your first exposure to this format, you probably need to get out more!

    • Pat

      Chronological order is: dd/mm/yy; as is second, minute, hour, day, month, year The USA format is confusing to the rest of the world!

      • Sharon

        Thank you, Pat! You are absolutely right about the order. Canada likely caught the disease of m/d/y from the US. I prefer the logical one. In genealogy, it is the common order around the world; only beginners ever use m/d/y.

  • Angela

    Do you know if one can take apples on to the plane? $18 for food? Yikes?

  • Sharon

    Wish the airlines/airports would stop this silly issue about liquids. To the best of my knowledge, it was 8-10 years or more ago that a man invented a device that could analyze any liquid and identify it. I know Heathrow uses them on request. People get very dehydrated while travelling unless they have and keep up drinking fluids carefully. What about people who need specific liquids for medical reasons?
    I’d be willing to pay for better water than is offered for sale once past Security.

  • Sam

    Seem a bit picky aye! Jesus your not flying business on BA your a bit critical, it’s a moderate Icelandic airline you can’t expect perfection and you have to pay for meals on many airlines

  • Janette Haines

    Iceland air charged my daughter, who needed to return early from her trip in Europe for medical reasons $600!!!!!! The flight wasn’t even half full. I’ve flown it several times and the food was horrible. $100 change fee is normal but $600 is an outrage!!!!

  • John Minaldo

    Anyone paying for a plane ticket and vacation in Europe should have trip insurance. I’ve heard some negative things about Icelandair, but have usually heard that the food is very good. I think the negatives with this airline are all upfront – you know saga class seating isn’t as good as business or 1st class on other international airlines, you know there is no food in economy class, you know the seats in economy are a little small. But you also know the prices are fantastic and the layover policy can basically provide a 2 location vacation for the price of 1 airline ticket.

  • CBYHZ

    I have flown Icelandair for 6 years now. I have never had a bad experience with them, unlike other carriers – both domestic and international. I recently booked a flight after having received an email form them offering a $100 discount. After booking and paying, I realized that I did not receive my discount. I called and was told to submit the email I received and a copy of my ticket to their corporate office in Iceland. I expected a long delay and ultimately, a travel voucher good for 1 year. I received an reply within 1.5 days, with an apology. They gave me a credit back to my Visa card in the amount of the discount within 3.5 days of their response. I have flown many places for many years. Icelandair is the best airline with whom I have ever done business!

  • Karla

    I flew Icelandair in May 2013, Saga Class, and loved it. I had seen some negative reviews prior to my trip but I was treated very well and the food was excellent. I thought the seats were pretty good and I paid $2500 from SEA to MIL, CPH to SEA which was a bargain. I would have done the layover but it was only free for Saga Class tickets and I had friends flying economy for whom it raised the price several hundred dollars so we skipped the layover.

    I do plan on flying them again next year from SEA to CDG and CPH to SEA, Saga Class.

  • No matter if some one searches for his required thing, thus he/she wants to be available
    that in detail, so that thing is maintained over here.

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