Traveling to Iceland from the U.S. is easier than ever. The island nation is home to Icelandair, one of the world’s most proliﬁc airlines, capable of running a year-round reliable operation in one of the harshest weather environments on the globe.
Icelandair links its home airport, Keﬂavik Airport (KEF), with Orlando, Raleigh-Durham, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York-JFK, Newark, Detroit, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, and Denver—some with daily frequencies and planes that range from its smallest Boeing 737 MAX 8 to its largest 767-300ER.
For me, ﬂying older planes with little time before they are retired is always more attractive than ﬂying new jets. For this reason, I chose my outbound ﬂight to KEF on Icelandair’s Boeing 767, manufactured two decades ago. The airline, which runs a strong cargo operation to Boston, ﬂies the wide-body daily to this U.S. destination. On my return leg, however, I chose the brand-new 737 MAX 9, which comes with high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity and that new-car smell that can be so appealing.
Icelandair’s website is easy to navigate. One day before my outbound trip, I was able to check in quickly. I conﬁrmed my seat selection and number of bags, and my boarding pass landed in my mailbox minutes later. It was also sent to my mobile, allowing me to save it on its digital wallet, which also let me view it on my Apple watch.
Icelandair uses the British Airways lounge at Boston Logan, which is an excellent option for passengers ﬂying in Saga Premium. Located on the upper ﬂoor of Terminal E, the lounge is adjacent to Lufthansa and Emirates’ VIP facilities.
Upon entering the BA club, an agent escorted me to the seating area, where numerous QR barcodes indicate online food ordering. The club is nicely distributed with myriad hot food options, a large bar, and an exclusive section for BA’s First class passengers.
Regular washrooms are available throughout the lounge, though the showers had been inoperative “for a long time,” as the club’s agent told me. After spending a full day working and moving around the city, I would have appreciated a good preﬂight shower. Sadly, it was not possible.
Boarding and Cabin
About one hour before departure time, I approached the gate for early boarding. Happily, the gate was open, and I swiftly reached Svörtuborgir (Black Fortress). Icelandair eloquently names all its planes after Icelandic landmarks. This 767 pays tribute to a row of volcanic craters west of Lake Myvatn, created in an eruption over 2,000 years ago.
Smiling ﬂight attendants, all dressed in the airline’s dark-blue uniforms, welcomed me onboard. I was pleasantly surprised to see how impeccable and nicely kept the interior of this 22-year-old plane looked. I settled on my preselected window seat, 4G, to witness a rapid and efficient boarding process.
The plane was fully loaded in no time, and we pushed back ﬁve minutes ahead of schedule.
Following a deice performed by the airport’s ground crew, our engines turned on, and we rapidly began taxiing to the runway for takeoff. Due to strong tailwinds, the captain announced that our ﬂying time to Keﬂavik was a quick four hours and 19 minutes.
Saga Premium could easily be compared to a premium economy seat with business-class amenities and service. Icelandair has chosen to ﬁt its planes with recliners rather than lie-ﬂat seats.
There are strong comfort limitations if the end mission is to sleep on ﬂights that can last eight hours.
Each seat on the 767 includes leg rests, in-ﬂight entertainment touch screens, and a decent recline angle.
Conﬁgured in a 2-1-2 layout, the cabin offers enough width in every seat to make each passenger feel comfortable. Leg pitch, however, is not remarkable. Taller passengers might ﬁnd it slightly troublesome.
Immediately after takeoff, I closed my eyes to be awakened by the ﬂight attendant 90 minutes after departure. She noticed I had been glancing at the in-ﬂight menu at the gate and asked whether I wanted to have dinner. I thanked her for following up, as I hadn’t had lunch and was looking forward to enjoying dinner on my way to Iceland.
I followed the advice from a friend who said Icelandic lamb “is always the way to go.” I ordered it and wasn’t disappointed. In fact, it was one of the best meals I’d ever had on any ﬂight.
Presented on a tray, a breaded ﬁllet of lamb was accompanied by a succulent, savory sauce, a garnish of grilled and sautéed vegetables, creamed mushrooms, and a delicious side of chicken Caesar salad. Bread on a plate with Icelandic butter, topped with volcanic black salt, and a chocolate mousse for dessert rounded out the dinner offering.
The lamb was outstanding, juicy, tender, and cooked to perfection (medium rare). The vegetables were impeccably crispy, while the creamed mushrooms were hearty, comforting and ﬁlling. The multigrain bread was the perfect complement to the butter and volcanic black salt. I was tremendously pleased. Immediately after ﬁnishing my meal, I closed my eyes again and managed to rest for the next two hours.
After a too-quick four-hour journey, our 767 began its initial descent into the pitch-dark, overcast Icelandic skies earlier than expected. Our captain announced that strong winds and rain in Keﬂavik would make our approach a little bumpy, so the seatbelt sign was switched on and the cabin crew was ordered to sit.
Landing in Keﬂavik was nothing short of an adventure. Strong crosswinds allowed the front-right side of our 767 clear views of the wet runway at Keﬂavik Airport. Thanks to the vast experience Icelandic pilots have in these difficult weather conditions, our aircraft touched down softly and brought us to a full stop under torrential rain. Our arrival time into Keﬂavik was almost 50 minutes ahead of schedule.
Icelandair offers affordable, reliable trips and free stopovers on itineraries between North America and Europe, allowing passengers to visit Iceland for a few days between ﬂights. My experience on this outbound ﬂight was nothing short of remarkable. The airline’s ﬂight attendants were tremendously friendly, polite, and well-trained. Not once did I see them servicing without a smile. The food was spot-on, and the seats—with their obvious limitations—were comfortable and spacious. For ﬂights under six hours, these seats are more than sufﬁcient if the trip’s mission is to have fun on a leisure visit. I would certainly ﬂy Icelandair again if the opportunity arises.