After using Lufthansa almost exclusively to fly to Germany over the last decade, my husband and I decided to mix things up for our latest German adventure and fly from Newark to Munich with Icelandair. The island nation’s no frills carrier has been growing in popularity due to their reasonable rates where your ticket includes your seat and you can pay for add-ons like luggage and food. While we saved some money with Icelandair’s economy standard ticket, it did come at a price.
While Icelandair might be new on the tongues of Americans and Europeans, the airline has been around for quite some time. The current Icelandair traces its history back to an airline called Flugfélag Akureyrar and founded in 1937. It’s only recently that the airline adopted its current moniker.
Icelandair’s current fleet of planes are all Boeing — 767, 757 and 737 MAX. Each plane has a name that ties to Icelandic culture, like a volcano or a mythical figure.
Because all of the flights go through Reykjavik, there is a large push to get you to visit the island nation. Icelandair allows passengers a no cost stopover in Iceland. You can buy bus tickets and tour passes on board. It’s really convenient for travelers and smart business, too.
How Flying with Icelandair Works
When you compare Icelandair to the big guys, they don’t fly very many flights. Even the cities they do fly to have only a handful of flights, at best, each day.
As you might expect, all Icelandair flights go through their hub in Reykjavik. In general, the airline schedule many of the North American flights to arrive during a single window of time. Similarly, all the UK and Europe bound flights depart around the same time. The opposite, that is the flights going from east to west, is also, of course, true. This model is efficient but stressful with little room for error. If you miss your connecting flight, you, potentially, could very well be stuck in the airport for a day. (The Icelandic capital city is a 45-minute bus ride away.)
Part of the way Icelandair can offer more affordable economy class flights is that is offers less. There are no meals or snacks included in ticket prices, except for children. You can, however, purchase food onboard the flight. Complimentary drinks are limited to water, coffee, tea and soft drinks. (Be sure to try the Icelandic orange soda. It’s very fizzy and not too sweet!) Again, alcoholic beverages are available for purchase.
The in-flight entertainment is somewhat pared down but still very respectable. It’s a mix of recent feature films and television, somewhat older favorites and a smattering of Icelandic entertainment offerings. The selection of music on offer, in particular, is rather large with a lot of variety. Just be sure to bring your headphones or you’ll be reaching for your wallet to buy a pair on the flight.
The company’s Saga class offers all the bells and whistles you’d normally expect. Economy Light is the most bare bones offering with not even checked luggage included. Other classes include checked luggage and absorb the cost into the ticket price.
My Experience Flying Icelandair
I flew round trip Economy Standard with Icelandair from Newark, New Jersey to Reykjavik, Iceland for a layover of just over an hour before continuing on to Munich, Germany. From flight to flight things were fairly consistent, both in good ways and in bad.
The trip got off to bad start when the flight was delayed boarding in Newark. When the flight did finally start boarding, other flights were using the same corridor. For security reasons, they gave these other flights priority and paused my flight from boarding. The delays ended up being a regular occurrence and I think fault lies equally between the airports and the airline. Upon arrival in Reykjavik from Newark, we were met at the gate by Icelandair employees that gave us laminated passes to skip to the front of the line at customs. On the return flights, however, there were no such benefits for our flight.
What I do like about Icelandair is that their take on service is different than some other airlines. I’ve been on flights where all I want to do is sleep but there’s a hot towel and then a snack and then a drink and then a meal and then lights out for two hours before another meal. It’s too much. Icelandair get you your drink, offer some in-flight shopping and then you’re pretty much left alone. The flight attendants are, of course, available if you need them. But you have some solitude to enjoy. Similarly, I enjoyed having the option to not automatically buy a meal that I inevitably wouldn’t want or eat. My husband and I brought snack bars that helped hold us over.
But, the benefits can be seen clearly as the flight was about half of what we normally pay for a similar flight.
Icelandair Review: The Verdict
Would I fly Icelandair again? Probably. As a side note I’d prefer to fly with Icelandair from Philadelphia instead of Newark but, alas, they only fly from the City of Brotherly Love during the summer.
The delays are what give me the greatest moment of pause. If there were more on-time flights I would say “yes” without a moment’s hesitation. What should have been more than two hours in the Keflavik Airport ended up being approximately twenty minutes. And I didn’t even get to bring home a bar of Icelandic chocolate. Maybe next time?
This review is unsolicited. All opinions, as well as all photos, are my own. This post contains affiliate links.