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.
The Seattle area has seen unusually heavy snowfall over the past week – 20.2 official inches of snow over six days. The heavy precipitation has closed local roads and freeways, caused widespread power outages, and generally raised havoc in an area that doesn’t normally receive noteworthy levels of snow. This is the most snowfall seen in Seattle for the month of February since 1916, and we are just half way through the month.Â
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s (SEA) ever-increasing flight volumes leave little room for weather delays. To contrast with the City of Seattle, which keeps just 35 snow plows on hand for the entire city, Sea-Tac Airport has more than 45 pieces of major snow-removal equipment, including:
Nine plow and broom combination units – state-of-the-art trucks with a 24-foot plow thatâ€™s as long as a semitruck
Two friction testers to measure stopping distance for the runways
Seven high-speed plows
Four de-icing trucks for roadways (three 75â€™ wide booms, one 45â€™ boom)
Additional sand, plow, and chemical trucks dedicated for landside maintenance
Pickup trucks with sanders and plows
Five snow blowers
10 high-speed brooms
Walk-behind snow blowers
Lots of snow shovels and brooms and team members ready to work
This week I was able to ride along with airport operations and see what it takes to keep operations at the airport moving.
The Irish and American flags were flown as Aer Lingus’ inaugural flight taxied to the gate
On May 18, yet another European airline started non-stop service to Seattle: Ireland’s Aer Lingus is now connecting Dublin with Seattle four times weekly.
The first ever pre-cleared transatlantic flight into Seattle, Aer Lingus EI 143 touched down ahead of schedule at 4.55 p.m.
Until this inaugural, Dublin was the largest European city without direct service from Seattle. Aer Lingus is using an Airbus A330-200 on the route, and flies on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday from departing at 5.35 p.m.
An Aer Lingus A330-200 landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
The Port of Seattle Fire Department welcomed Aer Lingus with a customary water cannon salute
Flying the flags
Aer Lingus COO Mike Rutter said â€œWe are delighted to commence Irelandâ€™s first and only direct service to Seattle, Washington State, with four direct flights each week. Seattle as a destination holds great promise for Aer Lingus given the strong business ties between the two regions making this an important route for business travel as well as leisure trips as exemplified by the high demand for business class tickets on the route to date.â€
With the strong demand Aer Lingus is seeing in this route, the airline is apparently already looking at eventually increasing the frequency from four to seven flights per week.
One of Alaska Airlines three newly-converted 737-700 freighters on the ramp at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Ever wonder about the process of loading, unloading, organizing, tracking, and planning the cargo side of a cargo flight?
Wonder no more â€” Alaska Airlines recently invited us to watch (and then ask a metric ton of questions about) one of the airline’s new 737-700 freighters on a recent visit to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
“Alaska Air Cargo serves as a lifeline to many of the communities in Alaska where we fly,” said Jason Berry, managing director of cargo for Alaska Airlines.
“Offering reliable and consistent service is critical for us. The addition of our modern fleet paired with our proprietary navigation procedures allows us the ability to bring true scheduled service to the far north,” he said.
Alaska Airlines Ramp Service Agent (RSA) Carlos Arenas, foreground, prepares to pass a bag of mail to Lead RSA Metin Mehmedov. Both are working in the aft belly hold of the aircraft.
In preparation for the induction of Alaska’s first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, the companyâ€™s strategy was to retire the remaining 400-series â€œclassicsâ€ from its fleet. The five combis and single dedicated freighter were all 400-series aircraft.
According to Berry, those 400s were also getting extremely cycle-heavy, which meant they had so many takeoff/landing cycles that they were nearing the end of their useful life for Alaska Airlines.
“The decision to convert three 737-700 Next-Gen passenger aircraft to freighters meant we retain much of the same fleet commonality in terms of training and maintenance and it would give us the right-sized aircraft to still serve all the same communities we provide main deck cargo lift to today (-800s could not land at some of our current scheduled airports such as Adak, Kodiak, Petersburg, and Wrangell),” he explained.
And what’s become of those old cargo planes? Berry said all six were sold to leasing companies. “I believe you can find them for sale as we speak. I speculate that someone will eventually purchase the aircraft and convert them to full freighters.”
Air France flight 338 arrives at Sea-Tac Airport March 25
Following an absence of over six years, Air France is once again flying to the U.S. Pacific Northwest, using a Boeing 777-200ER with a three-class cabin for flights from Paris-Charles De Gaulle (CDG) to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) on an initial schedule of three flights per week. Seattle is Air France’s 12th U.S. gateway.
Of course there was cake
The new SEA-CDG service will operate on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, increasing to five per week during the summer peak season (June 19 â€“ Sept. 1) by adding Mondays and Tuesdays to the schedule.