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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
VERDICT Delays were not the airline’s fault – though lower prices, Icelandic food and cash payment options would be a bonus 37/50
Icelandair departs Heathrow twice daily. Return prices start at £199 including all taxes.