Browsing Tag: KEF

Flying over Reykjavik in a PA28

Flying over Reykjavik in a PA28

This is a continuation of my multi-part series on learning to fly. You can read the whole Fly With Francis series here.

The flying weather continues to be dismal in Seattle – I’ve lost track at how many training flights have been canceled due to low ceilings, low visibility, potential icing, etc. – I stopped counting after 14. Even by Seattle standards, we’ve had an exceptional stretch of bad weather this winter.

However, during a recent trip to Iceland with Icelandair (watch for upcoming stories about their maintenance operations, fleet and route plans, plus an economy-class flight review), a series of fortuitous introductions led to my being able to do something I’d only dreamt of – fly in Iceland.

That experience more than made up for all the weather-based frustration with my stalled Seattle flight training.

The Piper PA-28-151 Cherokee Warrior we flew that day

The Piper PA-28-151 Cherokee Warrior we flew that day

All aboard TF-ICU - next stop, ORD.
Boarding TF-ICU, aka Dyrhólaey at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport, next stop, Chicago’s O’Hare International

The backstory

Loyal readers will recall our 2017 review of Saga Premium (which, at the the time, was called Saga Class) on Icelandair’s venerable 757-200s.

Since then, Icelandair has added several Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets to their fleet (they ordered a total of 16 of the MAX in both the -8 and -9 variants), using them on routes to U.S. destinations on the east coast and upper midwest, along with several European routes.

I flew SEA-KEF on a 757, then returned via Chicago on a 737 MAX 8, as Seattle is, unfortunately, beyond the working range of the MAX 8.

So, two years on, what was it like to fly Saga? Candidly, I was a fan of the last trip, so the memory still felt fairly fresh. My outbound flight was on TF-FIR, aka Vatnajökull, aka 80 years of Aviation, aka the glacier livery.

This AvGeek was stoked at the opportunity to fly on Vatnajökull, even though it was parked at a corner gate between two diagonal jetways at SEA, making photos pretty much impossible that day. IMHO, it’s the one of prettiest planes in the sky today, tied for that honor with Icelandair’s Hekla Aurora livery on TF-FIU.

TF-FIR landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2017. I wasn't able to get out on the ramp to get pre-flight photos for this trip, so we'll have to make do with an existing image

TF-FIR landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2017. I wasn’t able to get out on the ramp to get pre-flight photos for this trip, so we’ll have to make do with an existing image

The outbound flight from SEA to KEF was as good as the last time – I was in seat 1A for this flight, which is in a bulkhead row. The seats themselves are the same as we reviewed in 2017. They feel even more dated now, especially when compared to contemporary options even on some domestic US carriers, but they’re still very comfortable and offer a generous amount of recline.

Palletized freight is loaded aboard an Icelandair Cargo 757-200F at Keflavik International Airport.

Palletized freight is loaded aboard an Icelandair Cargo 757-200F at Keflavik International Airport

Air freight has always held a particular fascination for me; the mechanical logistics are fascinating, and, despite the fact that freight operations happen concurrently with passenger flights, many travelers don’t even notice that freight ops are happening all around them during their journey.

Icelandair Boeing 757 in Seattle (SEA).

Icelandair Boeing 757 in Seattle (SEA).

On May 16th, 2013, Icelandair flew its inaugural flight from Anchorage (ANC) to Keflavík (KEF) in Iceland. I was not able to swing a trip up to ANC for the festivities, but I was able to take their flight from Seattle (SEA) and join in with the celebration in Iceland. This is my review of flying Icelandair to Iceland and back. Notice: Icelandair covered my trip to/from Iceland. All opinions are my own.

I have flown internationally before and the standard international travel excitement led me to show up way too early. I arrived at noon and still had thirty minutes until Icelandair’s ticket counter opened. Since the airline doesn’t fly every few minutes, they don’t staff their counters at all hours of the day and night — which makes sense. I tend to forget this since I mainly travel with larger carriers and have little problem getting to the airport super early.

Promptly at noon, an Icelandair ticket agent had the place running, checked in my bag, and had me on my way. They recently adopted online check-in and ticketing and it worked perfectly. No paper, no fuss.