Icelandair flight review: Heathrow to Keflavik

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Icelandair Boeing 757

Director hops on Icelandair, Iceland’s national carrier, for a flight to Keflavik airport

Its parliament, founded in 930AD, is the world’s oldest. It has a life expectancy of 82. It has over 20 times more puffins (eight million) than people, 170 geothermal pools and the most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss, in Europe. It’s impossible to think of somewhere with a greater arsenal of quirky points of interest than Iceland.

Small wonder if you’re heading to Keflavik airport, about 50km west of Reykjavik, you’re one of a rapidly growing number. Around 241,000 British nationals visited Iceland through this airport in 2015, up 33 per cent on the previous year. So how is the journey north with a carrier that last year ran scheduled services to 39 cities in 16 countries?

Check-in

Against the grain of the British national character it may be, but Heathrow’s Terminal 2 redesign in 2014 put public dislike of queuing at the top of the priority list – and it shows. The queue at one of T2’s 126 check-in desks lasted all of three minutes, while the security line moved almost as quickly as the conveyor belts beside it.

9/10

Boarding

Following a 15-minute walk to the gate, take-off was 40 minutes late, due to a soupy fog over the North Atlantic delaying the plane into London, “problems” loading the baggage, and finally a closed runway. It would have been less frustrating but for Heathrow WiFi’s tendency to conk out at the airport’s edges, such as the outlying Gate B41.

6/10

The seat

An impressive entertainment system contained a decent choice of classic and contemporary movies, plus a range of mostly American TV (one-stop transatlantic flights are at the core of the airline’s business strategy). The plane on this route is always either a Boeing 757 or a 767, which means a decent 32in seat pitch and relatively expansive 8.9in screen.

9/10

In-flight experience

Food and alcohol had to be paid for, in dollars or euros, while card payments were “encouraged” in theory but compulsory in reality. WiFi was limited to the upper echelons of Icelandair’s loyalty scheme. Staff were good humoured and attentive.

7/10

Arrival

From the plane touching down to the first brisk breath of outdoor Icelandic air took more than an hour, due to a lengthy wait for luggage.

6/10

VERDICT Delays were not the airline’s fault – though lower prices, Icelandic food and cash payment options would be a bonus 37/50

Icelandair info

Icelandair departs Heathrow twice daily. Return prices start at £199 including all taxes.

icelandair.co.uk

@Icelandair

To read Director’s article on doing business in Iceland – click here

To read Director’s Reykjavik city guide – click here

About author

Nick Scott

Nick Scott

A former editor-in-chief of The Rake and deputy editor of the Australian edition of GQ, Nick has had features published in titles including Esquire, The Guardian, Observer Sport Monthly and Rolling Stone Australia and is a contributing editor to Director magazine. He has interviewed celebrities including Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig and Elle Macpherson, as well as business people including Sir Richard Branson, Charles Middleton and Nick Giles and Michael Hayman MBE.

1 comment

  1. Brian Katherine 9 August, 2016 at 17:10 Reply

    You had a very different experience than we did. We flew on Icelandair to take advantage of the free stopover program for our honeymoon to go to France for a week with a 3-day stopover in Reykjavic at the end.

    On the way out, our flight was delayed 2.5 hours. The crew was not forthcoming with information as the delays mounted. Once we boarded they insisted that we would “make up time” and be fine. They refused to give any information. During landing, they would not provide information about our connection, which of course meant that we missed our flight, as we were 30 minutes late for our 745am departure. I don’t know specifically, but it seemed like dozens of people were on our connection and missed the flight. The customs officer remarked to us at passport check that this seems to happen quite frequently with Icelandair. Any information that you see about short connections being a problem or that they will hold a departure for a late arrival with numerous connecting passengers does not square with our experience.

    Then, they rebooked all of us on a 1am flight and gave us hotel vouched even though we had to be back at the airport around 10pm. We were sent to the wrong hotel and then sent to a hotel that didn’t have availability. This was how we started our honeymoon.

    If that wasn’t enough, on our return trip, we were diverted from Chicago ORD to Minneapolis in-flight after circling around ORD for awhile without getting much information from the crew. Upon landing in Minneapolis, we sat on the runway for two hours before regulations forced them to deplane the passengers. Our plane had to be towed into the gate, but they were not forthcoming about the equipment failure other than that they couldn’t get the engine to start. They were not able to get the plane to fly afterwards and did not provide any information about an alternate plane or flight.

    Further, they did not have hotels available so once the passengers deplaned, everyone was stranded without information or vouchers for hotels or cabs near Midnight. After a couple hours, and most people had left to figure out accommodations on their own with many others sleeping at the airport, they finally arranged for hotels.

    My wife and I rebooked onto a Southwest Airlines flight as we still did not receive information on any type of return flight timeline. As of this review, we still haven’t been even offered reimbursement for rebooking onto another airlines.

    The resolution to all of this was that they had another plane fly out nearly 24 hours later and it was 12 hours or so before any information about that flight was even provided.

    I can’t more strongly recommend against booking onto Icelandair as a result of the lack of communication about delays, leaving the flight on the runway when the engine wasn’t working, the failure to provide support to passengers and the variety of other issues associated with twice being stranded.

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