Airline review: Icelandair, Reykjavik to Helsinki, Economy

THE PLANE

Boeing 757-200 and named after one of Iceland's volcanoes, Katla

LOYALTY SCHEME

Saga Club, free to join. Partner airlines include Finnair, JetBlue, Air Iceland (a regional airline) and Alaska Airlines.

CLASS

Economy, window seat 17F.

DURATION

Three hours and 10 minutes. Because Reykjavik's international airport is still expanding to accommodate the tourist boom, it's a good idea to arrive at least three hours before your departure time.

FREQUENCY

Several flights daily, some code-shared with Finnair.

SEAT

One reason Iceland is so hot right now is the Icelandair Stopover: fly between North America and Europe and you can have a seven-night stopover in Iceland without paying for another flight. It's a big offering from a little airline and they want you to know about it. So there are posters all over Reykjavik airport and promotional messages ending with "#stopover" on the seat headrests on this flight; the inflight magazine is even called Icelandic Stopover. The leather seats are basic but comfortable, with mesh pockets and USB ports; they're 17.2 inches wide (43.6cm) and have a pitch of 32 inches (81cm).

BAGGAGE

In Economy, you're allowed one checked bag weighing up to 23kg. The carry-on limit is a generous 10kg plus a small personal item such as a handbag or laptop.

COMFORT

Pillows are available on request, free of charge, as are cosy grey fleece blankets (the tourism messages keep coming: these have "Missing the hot springs? Warm yourself with this instead" printed on them).

ENTERTAINMENT

The entertainment system is also free to access, with a good selection of movies, music and TV shows (222 episodes in all). You'll need to BYO headphones or buy some on board for 900 Icelandic krona (about $10) or just watch Icelandic movies or dramas, such as Trapped, with English subtitles. Wi-Fi access is also available.

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FOOD

Water, soft drinks, tea and coffee are complimentary. Meals are too if you're under 12 (children aged 2-11 get free meals in all classes). For the rest of us there's the Saga Shop Kitchen menu, which has snacks and drinks such as tapas for 1200 kr (about $14), vegetable noodles for 500 kr ($6) and glasses of wine for 950 kr ($11). You won't be able to spend your leftover krona, however; Icelandair is a cashless airline, accepting only credit and debit cards. (Instead, perhaps donate it to Icelandair's Special Children's Travel Fund using the envelope in your seat pocket.)

SERVICE

On such a short flight, the cabin crew need to be on their game and they are, offering drinks, meals and duty-free shopping with friendly efficiency. Before landing, a message on the seatback screen asks passengers to return their seats to the upright position and stow the tray tables; one flight attendant goes the extra mile by asking the man seated next to me to put on his shoes. The only glitch came before we boarded: the jam-packed bus from the terminal didn't open its doors when it reached our aircraft and we were trapped for a full 15 minutes with no explanation or apology.

ONE MORE THING

Between September this year and April 2018, Icelandair is celebrating its 80th anniversary with a Stopover Pass (not to be confused with the Icelandair Stopover mentioned above), which gives Icelandair passengers the chance to win tickets to live cultural events such as Icelandic football matches and music festivals during their stay in Iceland. See icelandair.co.uk for more details.

THE LAST WORD

Icelandair is surprisingly sophisticated and service-oriented for the national airline of a country with only 330,000 people.

OUR SCORE OUT OF FIVE: ★★★★½

Louise Southerden flew courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions.

See also: The ultimate guide to stopovers for Australians

See also: The three-minute guide to Reykjavik

 

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