How to get to Iceland on an award ticket this summer

Iceland is at the very top of my list of places to visit this summer. I mean, I don’t think it takes more than watching this video to convince someone they have to visit:

So I’ve been doing some investigating the past week or so about how I plan on getting there. I figured I’d share my general findings for anyone else that might be interested in going this summer. I’ll break down my findings by alliance, and my research is by no means thorough, so take it for what it’s worth.

OneWorld

The only OneWorld option to Iceland is Air Berlin, which offers service to Reykjavik out of both Dusseldorf and Berlin. Award availability is excellent, as you can see below.

The catch is that Air Berlin flies one-cabin aircraft on the route, and their seats have 29-30 inches of pitch. We’re talking about a 3+ hour flight, so while it can be a great deal, I just think it’s worth throwing that out there for those of you that are on the tall side.

American and British Airways both charge just 10,000 miles for a one-way coach award ticket between Germany and Iceland, which is a fantastic deal if you’re already in Europe and want to add on a quick side trip to Iceland.

Star Alliance

Lufthansa has service multiple days a week from Dusseldorf, Berlin, and Hamburg to Reykjavik. Oddly they don’t have any nonstop service from their two biggest hubs — Frankfurt and Munich — to Reykjavik. Award availability on these flights is fairly good, especially on the Berlin to Reykjavik route, where nonstop award availability looks as follows:

SAS also offers service between Oslo and Reykjavik, and this is probably the Star Alliance route with the best award availability to Iceland. Searching only the nonstop flight from Oslo to Reykjavik, here’s what award availability looks like:

Both United and US Airways charge 60,000 miles for roundtrip economy or 100,000 miles for roundtrip business class between the US and Iceland. They both allow a stopover — US Airways only at a transatlantic gateway city or a Star Alliance hub, while United will generally allow it just about anywhere.


Aeroplan considers Iceland to be “Europe 2,” and they charge 75,000 miles for coach or 105,000 miles for business class. They allow two stopovers, though. You can have one in each direction.

I think the major challenge with booking an award ticket to Iceland this summer from the US on Star Alliance is the lack of transatlantic award space. That’s why United is probably the best program to book through, since you can lock something in now, and then make changes at reasonable costs as the departure date approaches and better options open up. United doesn’t charge for routing changes up until 21 days before departure, and at that point they charge just $75 for changes. Best of all they allow changes to itineraries after departure, should you still want to optimize your return itinerary during your trip.

SkyTeam

Delta will be resuming their seasonal New York to Reykjavik service this summer, which will run from June 3 through September 2, 2013. Awards are priced the same level as everywhere else in Europe (60,000 miles in coach or 100,000 miles in business class). Award space in business class actually looks fairly good for the dates it’s operating (the dates in “green” are available at the low level):

Unfortunately there’s no way to tie this in with an award to mainland Europe, given that no SkyTeam carriers fly east from Iceland.

Icelandair

I really, really, really, really wish Icelandair would join one of three big alliances (and for that matter I think they should — I see only upside for them in doing so).

While it’s not quite as good as joining one of the three big alliances, Icelandair does have a partnership with Alaska Airlines, at least through May 31, 2013, when it’s being terminated.

If all of the above award options fail and you book a revenue ticket on Icelandair, just book it by May 31, 2013, so you can still at least accrue Alaska Mileage Plan miles for your ticket.

The Alaska redemption chart on Icelandair (through May 31) looks as follows:

While those redemption rates aren’t great given the other great uses of Alaska miles and also that Icelandair’s business class is more like domestic first class, it’s still not a bad deal if you can book Iceland as a stopover and continue in business class to Europe for a total of 80,000 miles roundtrip.

Business class award availability on Icelandair can be searched using ExpertFlyer.com, though based on a few searches availability doesn’t seem to be that great for this summer (not that we should be surprised).

My plan

My biggest travel aspirations this summer are to visit Iceland and Northern Europe. So those would tie in together great with a Star Alliance award, routing my travel through Oslo with a stopover there. Then I can book a cheap ticket using British Airways to Helsinki, and also hopefully visit Stockholm and Copenhagen.

Anyone else hoping to visit Iceland this summer?

Comments

  1. If I was flying from the East Coast of the US, and was using Alaska points, I would consider premium economy over FC on Icelandair. 33″ pitch, and the middle seat blocked, so it is the same as that 3 hour LH flight anyway. You also get business class check-in.

  2. @ Gene — Hah, I’ve verified several of the dates in this case, and they seem to be accurate (mainly because there’s not all that much it can screw up, given that there are only nonstop flights between New York and Reykjavik).

  3. IcelandAir is constantly one of my cheapest cash options to almost anywhere in Europe (through SEA) stopping over in Reykjavik. It would be foolish not to stop there.

  4. I flew JFK-KEF last July using a Delta B Class award ticket. Granted, 100K for a 5+ hour flight might not have been an “ideal” routing, I spent a great 4 days in the country on a last minute trip where revenue fares were going in excess of $1200 for economy.

    The delta product was OK, and I viewed it as an acceptable use of generally hard to redeem skypesos

  5. I booked a Delta econ ticket June 7-11 for $617 all in. As a PM, I was able to select EC for free.

    The week I’m there and the week after offer the longest daylight of the year. I’m pretty excited to go.

  6. Given the presumably short flights from EC to Iceland I’d think there’s probably no need for anything more than premium economy. IcelandAir always advertises on the DC metro the free stopover aspect on their flights so paid flights may not be a bad option if prices are reasonable.

  7. Boring choice by you!
    Fly a new airline man, choose IcelandAir, whether by miles or a cash ticket. It’s a good airline with good IFE, free icelandic bottled water (yum), and something new for your blog readers.

  8. Good tip, try to avoid july and August in Iceland.

    The start of september is much quieter, with cheaper whale watching, 4×4 rental, accommodation…

    Really a top travel destination. My video can be found on video.com/dailybits

  9. I’m planning to try and get to Iceland around the 4th of July for 5 days or so. I don’t really want to burn 100,000 SkyMiles for the trip, so I’m hoping to non-rev JFK-KEF this time around…gotta love the buddy passes for international travel.

  10. Hey Lucky,

    I’m actually planning on going in October myself, but I agree with your analysis. I’m going to burn all my flexperks to fly icelandair and stopover in scotland because there just isn’t any decent value in flying to iceland from the east coast w/ european stopover.

    As always, thanks for the great content and site! Please do share what you plan to do in iceland!

  11. What are you planing to experience in the southern part of Northern Europe? Stockholm, Oslo & Helsinki share the same latitude. In the southern 1/3 of Scandinavia. If you’re going for nature, go further north. I know you don’t see it on the weather maps when you are in Europe.

  12. Iceland Air is having a pretty good sale on their website right now.

    I booked the Iceland Airwaves package, 5 day music festival pass plus round trip airfare from DEN to KEF = $680 in October

  13. Easyjet has cheap tickets from England to Iceland. Often around 100GBP. Why use points at that price?

  14. For the 10K BA avios, do I have to convert into IB Avios first to use the Germany to Iceland?

    Thanks

  15. You should go to Stavanger or Bergen if you’d like to visit Norway. Both cities are much better than Oslo.

  16. Lucky, come to Copenhagen and Malmo! We’d be happy to welcome you and show you around!

  17. Seems like it would be cheaper to just book a flight to the UK or CDG and then book a discount airline like Wowair for a $100 or $200. Just me though.

  18. So for 40K in couch round trip in the winter, I can do:
    BOS-FCO /open jaw/ AMS-KEF-BOS?

  19. Lucky,

    I had a Delta award roundtrip booked to KEF when the route for this summer was still daily. They since removed the Saturday outbound and the Sunday return, which happened to be the days I was to fly. I know Delta is much maligned for the way they handle the Skymiles program, but surprisingly Delta rebooked me on Icelandair for my original dates. They even let me choose what FI city I wanted to leave from.

    I just wanted to know if this is how an airline typically handles a cancellation due to a schedule change. Delta doesn’t have a relationship with FI, so I was a bit taken aback when it was offered, especially since I have no status whatsoever.

  20. @ Brian L. — Best I can tell it’s once a week and a charter, since there’s no award space and they’re not selling any business class.

  21. @ Richard — No, that’s extremely impressive, and definitely not the norm. Usually they’ll rebook you on the next flight on their metal, or maybe on one of their partners. But it’s extremely rare to be booked on a totally different, non-partner airline.

  22. While additional options are always good

    “I really, really, really, really wish Icelandair would join one of three big alliances”

    The Icelandair Saga (Business) class on their 757’s is barely better than domestic F on United.

  23. @ u600213 — And while I agree the product isn’t great, what’s the alternative if you’re wanting to go to Iceland, really?

  24. i just did the KEF – SEA run and ex-KEF the food in Saga class was quite good. And unlike United domestic first, at least Iceland Air is priced appropriately for what you’re getting.

    The lounge in KEF is great, and it’s a winter necessity if you’re doing the 9-hour spa layover en route to Europe (Blue Lagoon doesn’t open until 10am).

    The flight is a quick 7 hours and you land at the same time you took off. Easy.

  25. I’ll be there in 3 days! Though I will let you know that saga class, as business classes go, is pretty basic. Iceland, however, is amazing.

  26. I cannot seem to find any availability to Iceland from London on the BA website. I don’t even see iceland/reykjavik as a destination. Any tips?

  27. @ Jason — You’re much better off searching Air Berlin award availability on aa.com, which shows that award space in an easier to read calendar.

    As far as booking goes, Reykjavik suffers from the same issues as many destinations in South America, as discussed in this post:
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2013/04/29/how-to-search-lan-award-space-on-british-airways-website-even-when-they-dont-want-to-show-you-space/

    So you can really only book awards departing Iceland on BA’s website, and have to call for anything to Iceland.

  28. Ah, thanks for the heads up! It seems as though there’s no cost-effective way to stop in Iceland on the way home from a trip to London. Even if I spend ~5k avios to get to some city in Europe + 10k to get to Reykjavik, there’s no cheap or easy way to get back to the US.

  29. @ Jason — Agreed. The only decent option is booking a ticket on IcelandAir, as their fares are reasonable and they allow a “free” stopover in Iceland when going between the US and Europe.

    But frustratingly when using miles there’s no way to easily do that.

  30. Have a blast!!! While you’re in Norway, use UA miles to redeem a flight to Longyearbyen (LYR) which is the northernmost airport in the world that has public flights. I’ll be going to Copenhagen in August and can’t wait!

  31. Jason, Lucky – a few months ago, when I tried to book LHR-KEF-SEA one way in August as a single reservation with 10 day KEF stopover on IcelandAir’s web site, the quoted fare came to $1200. When I booked in two separate reservations, the total fare dropped to $800 (about $300 LHR-KEF plus $500 KEF-SEA). Caveat Emptor :-).

  32. Scandinavia is my favorite part of the world (though technically Finland and Iceland do not belong to Scandinavia). Nature is well taken care of, lakes and rivers are pristine, the way we should live in our environment. And summers are glorious with extended daylights, festivals and culture. And it doesn’t have to be that expensive. Enjoy !

  33. Myself, my partner and his folks are headed the this summer – we picked up our flights via United when availability first opened up, flying Chicago straight to Zurich (SWISS), then spending 5 days in Switzerland, picked up a one way from Geneva to Olso where we continue our trip for another 4 days and finally continue on the original itinerary from Oslo to Iceland (SAS) where have a while week. We come back via KEF to TXL to FRA to ORD (Lufthansa). Openjaw + Stopover all booked via the website.

  34. It’s definitely on my list of places to visit – I’ll probably end up going via Easyjet or Icelandair.

    If you’re in Europe this summer then try and make it to the Edinburgh Festival in August – we’d make you very welcome and I’m sure you’d enjoy it 🙂

  35. Great analysis! We just posted a guide 2 days ago and honestly missed the AB option!

    http://www.mightytravels.com/13232755/how_to_get_to_reykjavik_iceland_using_miles.php

    I did go to Iceland last year using a separate United award flying LH from DUS and coming back on Scandinavian. It was during the LH strike week so I was happy it would go at all.

    We also just pointed out some options whereto stay:

    http://www.mightytravels.com/13232755/where_to_stay_in_reykjavik_iceland.php

    And what to do in Reykjavik:
    http://www.mightytravels.com/13232755/things_to_do_in_reykjavik_iceland_and_around.php

  36. How do you get the award availability for the flight? I tried AA and it showed “There are currently no awards available on AA.com for your requested Origin and Destination. Please modify your request or contact AAdvantage Reservations for award opportunities on all AAdvantage participating airlines.

  37. Does any of this still apply in 2015? I have a number of SPG, BA and Ultimate Reward points available and I’m looking to head to Iceland in February. If Alaska is no longer partnered with Icelandair, are there any decent award options available through any of these programs leaving from the US?

  38. @ Winderlusting — Awards to Iceland in winter are really tough, unfortunately. You’d likely need to route via Europe, and even then it’s sparse.

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