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 VatnajÃ¶kull, aka 80 years of Aviation, aka the glacier livery.
This AvGeek was stoked at the opportunity to fly on VatnajÃ¶kull, 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.
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.
First, for anyone whose travel itinerary involves a lot of layovers, the Admirals Clubs represent a great deal. A day pass costs $59, and is good across the American network. In my case, this allowed me to check into Boston for a couple of hours before my first flight, pop into the lounge in Charlotte for a quick refresher, then planespot in Chicago over appetizers.
It didnâ€™t take me long to agree to work as Press for PAX East (if you’re not sure what that is, check the link ahead). After last yearâ€™s adventure in San Antonio for PAX South, I was eager to experience the last major PAX event that I hadnâ€™t yet been to. Besides, Iâ€™d never visited Boston before.
American, Delta, United, Frontier, and Allegiant all operate flights out of my local airport, either directly or through a regional subcontract. While I prefer to fly Delta, they were significantly more expensive than American for an early April round trip to Boston. Neither Frontier nor Allegiant fly into Bostonâ€™s Logan International, which put them out of the running. American it was! Given that I expected to come back from Boston with two checked bags plus a carryon, a back-to-front (Economy to Boston, First Class home) flight plan almost paid for itself in bag fees. At least, as long as I didnâ€™t mind flying Boston to Sioux Falls via Charlotte and Chicago.
Unlike Delta, which runs its FSD-MSP feeder flights on mainline A320 or B717 aircraft, American contracts with Air Wisconsin to feed their Chicago-Oâ€™Hare hub with CRJ-200 flights. These aircraft are all single class 2-2 configuration. As I would find out, no booking consideration is given to First Class on other legs. Anyone wanting one of the few prefered seats on the -200 is going to have to pay for it.
Spirit’s first flight out of Kansas City receives a dual water cannon salute – Photo: Aaron Wright, KC Aviation Dept.
It’s true, people vehemently despiseÂ Spirit Airlines. Just the mention of the company elicits emotion-filledÂ horrorÂ stories. Indeed they haveÂ a solid 1 out of 5 star rating on TripAdvisor, and they are frequently foundÂ at, or near, the top of various “worst airline” rankings. In direct contrast to these ratings and frequent “I’ll never fly Spirit again” claims,Â the airline continues to grow and increase market share. This begs the question – is the experience really THAT bad? Or, is there something else at play here?
In their own defense, SpiritÂ argues that the mass dissatisfaction with them is in large part due to consumers not understanding their progressive, totally unbundled Ultra Low Cost Carrier (ULCC) business model. That assertionÂ seems to hold water. The vast majority of complaints I hear and see are indeed related to “unexpected fees” and being “nickel and dimed” to death. As the well-knownÂ cliche goes: “The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.” Thankfully, Spirit recognizes there is a problem. To that end they recently hired Barkley,Â a KC-based marketing firmÂ to assist with better educating consumers and promoting what they refer to as aÂ “bare fare.”
“Bare Fare” crop circle spotted in a soy field just north of the KC airport – Photo: Victor Lazo
A few months ago, Kansas City International airport announced that ours would be a new market served by Spirit. Shortly after an unexplained crop circle appeared prompting a lot of curiosity. It turned out the image seen above is the logo for Spirit’s Bare Fare.
I was excited to finally have the opportunity to give them a shot, contrary to the advice of everyone who I’d informed of my intentions. I booked a seat on the first flight out, and this is my honest, unbiased review…
Slow morning at Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) in upstate New York – Photo: Steven Paduchak
Ever wonder what itâ€™s like to be â€œthat guy?â€ Specifically, when trying to get on a particular flight, standing up at the kiosk as the gate agent scans everyoneâ€™s boarding pass?Â Well people, I had the distinct opportunity to be â€œthat guy.â€Â Welcome to the world of flying via standby.
What is â€œstandbyâ€ flying?Â Well, Iâ€™ll tell you.Â People who are on a standby list for a particular flight have the option to snag any available seats left over once the boarding process is complete.Â By â€œstandard passengers,â€ I, of course, mean people who actually paid money (or miles) for their ticket.Â Flying standby is most commonly a result of a friend or relative working for that specific airline, or regional affiliate. My first week being a part of this kind of travel was entertaining, exciting, nerve-wrecking, aggravating, and unorthodox, to say the least.Â Hereâ€™s how it all got started.