Icelandair began life in 1937 as Flugfélag Akureyrar. In 1940 it changed names to Flugfélag Íslands which translates to Iceland Airways. Despite the British military occupation (i.e. invasion) of Iceland later that year the airline continued domestic services using float planes. During WWII the Americans built an air force base at Keflavik, 50km southwest of Iceland’s capital Reykjavik which in 1945 became Iceland’s international airport. Flugfélag Íslands flew their first international service to Scotland on 11 July. Flugfélag Íslands acquired six war surplus DC-3’s and focused primarily on domestic services. Despite Iceland’s limited population two local airlines fought for market share the other being Loftleiðir. By 1952 Loftleiðir focused on international services while Flugfélag Íslands served mostly domestic routes. In 1967 Flugfélag Íslands joined the jet age and began using the name Icelandair for marketing purposes. Iceland’s strategic position along many flight paths between Europe and North America made the country a convenient refuelling stop and virtual hub. As aircraft became larger other airlines ceased services to Iceland but Keflavik’s location as a hub remains the core marketing advantage of the airline. In 1979 the two Icelandic airlines merged under the Icelandair name. Icelandair was hit hard in 2010 and again in 2011 when two different volcano’s erupted closing much of Europe’s airspace but ironically little affecting Keflavik Airport itself.
Icelandair has a reputation for being a ‘backpacker airline’ and aims to satisfy their target market. Icelandair provides minimal service for Economy passengers who need to pay for ‘extras’ like meals and entertainment head sets. Aircraft interiors are functional with no evidence of Iceland’s Viking heritage in the colour scheme or designs. Crew are relatively ordinary and do look like Captain Gorgeous.
Icelandair certainly has a network that reaches far beyond the needs of Icelanders. The airline serves two destinations in Canada and seven in the US, including several cities overlooked by larger airlines such as Anchorage (Alaska), Minneapolis and Orlando. In Europe the airline has an extensive network in Scandinavia flying to four cities in Norway plus two in Sweden and also Denmark’s capital and Finland’s. The airline flies to three cities in Spain and a host of other major European cities. Iceland is conveniently located on many routes so the airline is conveniently positioned as a hub.
Icelandair attracts passengers by their competitive prices and their quant Nordic image. The airline is competitive, however is very standard in almost every way. A quick transit stop in Iceland does make an interesting talking point when recounting your trip to Europe or America.
There’s a reason there aren’t Icelandic restaurants all around the world; their cuisine is bland and so is Icelandair’s. Economy passengers are required to pay to dine while Economy Comfort and Saga (Business) Class passengers are served for free. Economy passengers will need to open their wallets again if they wish to drink alcohol. Icelandair serves stereotypical airline food which resembles supermarket TV dinners. In economy the presentation of the meals is extremely ordinary and Saga Class passengers are served a better grade of ordinary. Icelandair’s catering is designed to satisfy hunger or relieve boredom more than impress. The airline’s coffee is nice in Saga Class.
Most Icelandair routes are quite long so the airline’s modern video-on-demand in-flight entertainment units are a great way to break the boredom. Economy passengers will need to fork out €3 for a headset or bring their own to access to around 30 Hollywood and European movies, TV shows, games and audio options. The airline’s in-flight magazine Icelandair Info comes out quarterly so is not designed for frequent travellers.
Icelandair has a modern and sterile check-in procedure and is strict with baggage allowances. Travellers to North America are allowed a generous baggage entitlement but once it is exceeded expect to pay excess charges. Icelandair handles luggage efficiently and connecting bags seldom get lost. Travel Insurance, with relation to baggage, is an option rather than a necessity.
Icelandair doesn’t seem to be trying very hard to attract premium passengers as their Saga Class is spectacularly ordinary. Seats are naturally larger and more comfortable and that seems to be where the difference stops. Meals are nice rather than great and the airlines alcohol service isn’t anything you’ll be writing home about. Icelandair has its own Saga Lounge at Keflavik International Airport which may remind customers of IKEA. Outside Iceland the airline utilises other airline lounge’s which range from average to quite nice. Never great.
Icelandair has Economy Class and Economy Comfort which is essentially Economy with the middle seat kept free and small tray table placed in the middle. Meals are included with Economy Comfort and the baggage allowance is also higher. Icelandair’s Economy passengers get what they pay for and nothing much else. The airline is very punctual so budget travellers on a schedule will appreciate it.
Icelandair’s Saga Club loyalty scheme is designed for Icelanders and will be of very limited appeal to other travellers. Icelandair is not a member of any global airline alliance so their points have limited use. The airline has partnered with a few select carriers; Alaska Airlines, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Finnair and JetBlue so points can also be earned on them.
The socially responsible attitude of Iceland also governs their airline. The carrier strives to be green, promotes charities and behaves ethically. The airline structure is very flat with managers and staff cooperating rather than conflicting. The airline has not been plagued by scandals or been involved in price fixing cartels the way most legacy carriers have been.
Icelandair maintains their aircraft in excellent condition and they are piloted by experienced crew accustomed to extreme weather conditions. One of Iceland’s many tourist attractions is its many active volcano’s whose ash cause terrible damage to engines. Icelandair is ever vigilant against this problem as well. The airline does not cut safety corners to save money. However Icelandair and its predecessors have had five fatal accidents, three related to weather, but have had no major incident since 1978.
Icelandair is a very average airline but links Europe to North America punctually and efficiently.
Home | Activities | Aeroflot | Aerolineas | AeroMexico | AirAsia | Air Austral | Air Berlin | Air Canada | Aircalin | Air China | Air Europa | Air France | Air India | Air Koryo | Air Malta | Air Mauritius | Air NZ | Air Tahiti Nui | Alaska Airlines | Air Vanuatu | Air Zimbabwe | Alliance Airlines | Alitalia | American Airlines | ANA | Ariana | Asiana | Austrian | Avianca | Bangkok Airways | British Airways | Cathay Pacific | Car Rentals | Cebu Pacific | China Airlines | China Eastern | China Southern | Cubana | Delta | Dragonair | easyJet | EgyptAir | El Al | Emirates | Etihad | EVA Air | Fiji Airways | Finnair | Flights | flydubai | Frontier | Garuda | Gulf Air | Hainan Airlines | Hawaiian | HK Express | Hotels | Iberia | Icelandair | Insurance | Iran Air | Iraqi Airways | JAL | Jet Airways | jetBlue | Jetstar | Kenya Airways | KLM | Korean Air | Myanmar Airways | Myanmar National | Norwegian | LATAM | Lufthansa | Malaysia | Maps | Nok Air | Olympic Air | OneWorld | Our Airline | PIA Pakistan | Philippine Airlines | Qantas | Qatar | Rex | Royal Jordanian | Ryanair | S7 | SAS | Saudi Arabian | Scoot | Sichuan Airlines | Silk Air | Singapore Airlines | Shanghai Airlines | Shenzhen Airlines | SkyTeam | Skywards | South African Airways | Southwest | Spirit | Star Alliance | | Swiss | TACA | Thai Airways | Tigerair | Transport | Travel Tips | Turkish | United | VietJetAir | Vietnam | Virgin America | Virgin Atlantic | Virgin Australia | WestJet | Xiamen Air |