With Iceland’s global popularity skyrocketing, so too are the air options for tourists curious to visit the Land of Ice and Fire. With several airlines now competing for customers, the details and nuances of the flight experience have never been more important. On my most recent trip to Iceland, I flew with Icelandair, my third time on one of their 757s. Icelandair in particular has risen to the challenge of increased demand and seems to announce a new US destination city every other week. Although the flights can be short, around 5 hours or so from the East Coast depending on winds, for me any flight experience is important as the proper way to kick off a new adventure. If the flight is substandard, then it sets a terrible tone for the trip, especially arriving into Keflavik International Airport at a very dark and cold 5:00am. As a premium traveler, I try to fly in a similar cabin whenever I can, but for this last Iceland trip I decided to conduct an experiment. I wanted to once again fly in Icelandair’s Business Class, which they call Saga Class, but I also wanted to try a cabin I had never flown in before, their Economy Comfort Class. I put the two cabins to the test and, honestly, I was surprised by what I discovered. Here are those results to help you better plan your next trip to what is one of the most beautiful and certainly interesting countries in the world.
Saga Class – What is it and pros/cons
As of publication, Icelandair mostly operates 757s, which aren’t as large as some other transatlantic aircraft. They’re single aisle, which for some travelers can seem a little cramped. However, their treatment of the premium cabins has left them feeling anything but cramped. So, what are the perks of flying in Saga Class?
Here’s the run-down:
- 4-abreast setting with 40” legroom, although the seats only recline and aren’t lie-flat
- Separate Check-in
- Lounge access (at IAD it was the Air France lounge)
- Noise cancelling headphones
- Pillows and duvet
- Amenity Kit (if overnight)
- Free Wi-fi for two devices
So, it’s a pretty standard set of inclusions, although the Wi-Fi was an unexpected surprise. Unfortunately, our departing flight was delayed by several hours and so I didn’t get to enjoy the meal service, but I’ve been in Saga Class before and the food was fine. What did stand out to me on this most recent trip was the service. The flight attendants were kind and gracious, amongst the nicest I’ve ever encountered actually. They helped me in any number of ways, including when my partner left his phone on the plane upon arriving into KEF. The dinner service was large and there was a nice and light breakfast service before landing, which was perfect. I wasn’t hungry but the Icelandic doughnuts and coffee were perfect. Overall, the flight was fantastic, I was very well looked after and I was comfortable. Even more important, once we landed and discovered that my partner’s phone was missing, we stopped into the Saga lounge in KEF where they, along with the flight crew, worked together to return it right away. It was amazing service from start to finish and I was a very happy customer.
If there are any cons, it’s the configuration of the plane, which doesn’t allow for lie-flat business class seating. It’s also a very short flight from the East Coast, so everything seems a little rushed, which it is. Other than that, I don’t have any complaints.
Economy Comfort – What is it and pros/cons
I didn’t have a lot of high expectations for the Economy Comfort cabin on the way home, but I don’t know why I felt that way. Maybe because from my experience, these better-than-economy sections are middling even on the largest of aircraft. However, Icelandair has packed the Economy Comfort option with so many perks, I think it may be my favorite version of this cabin class of any airline. These are the included perks:
- Business Class check-in
- Lounge Access (this is a huge perk)
- Four people to a row, even if there are more seats and 33” legroom
- Blankets, sleep mask, pillows and so on
- Complimentary food and drink
The complimentary food is where they won me over, oddly enough. Instead of a dedicated menu as in Saga Class, Economy Comfort passengers can order whatever they want from the a la carte menu available to Economy Class passengers, all free. For a picky eater like myself it was the ideal situation and reminded me of First Class on Virgin America. I loved it. Instead of eating a mushy Business Class meal, I enjoyed a sandwich and snacks and couldn’t have been happier. There was even an extra perk on my return flight; the seats used for our section were Business Class seats. So we had the same legroom as we would have in Saga Class. Ultimately, I liked the Economy Comfort experience much more than the Saga Class flight, which seems strange but is really true.
Economy Comfort or Premium Economy or Super Duper Cool Economy, whatever you call it varies greatly from one airline to the next. From my experience though, there’s not usually enough benefit to warrant the downgrade from Business Class. On Icelandair it’s different though. They’ve loaded this option with so many perks, I really don’t see a reason to fly in their Saga Class cabin, although it’s very nice. From lounge access to great seats and free food and drink, the Economy Comfort option for me is the way to go, especially if it’s a short flight from the East Coast. I’ve now flown in all three cabins onboard Icelandair though and I’ve never had a bad experience. They infuse the entire flight with Icelandic charm and wit, branding everything with those iconic sights that have made Iceland so very famous around the world. The crewmembers are kind and helpful and everything just makes sense. For me, getting to the destination is an integral part of any trip and with Icelandair, I know I’m always in very good hands.