Icelandair Business Class (Saga Class) Review

On Monday I flew Icelandair business class from Reykjavik to Frankfurt. Have you ever banged your head against a wall out of pure stupidity? Well, the way I ended up in Icelandair business class was a pure act of stupidity on my part, which I’ll explain in more detail with the full trip report. But yes, unfortunately I paid cash for an Icelandair business class ticket, because economy was sold out, and I totally screwed up the award ticket I had booked out of Iceland.

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On the plus side, at least I get a (hopefully) unique review out of it.

I’ve always been fascinated by Icelandair. A large part of their business model consists of transporting passengers between the US and Europe via their Reykjavik hub, and one of their cool features is that they’ll let you do a free stopover in Iceland for up to seven days.

They frequently have reasonable business class fares. For example, it’s not unusual to see business class fares between the US and Europe for around $1,700 with a stopover in Reykjavik, which is great for business class. The only catch is that they don’t really get business class, but rather just a domestic first class product of sorts.

So while I’ll share the full details with the trip report, here are my initial impressions.

Icelandair Business Class Lounge Reykjavik

This was probably the aspect of their operations that impressed me the most. They have a gorgeous Saga Class Lounge in Reykjavik. It’s massive, beautifully decorated, and has a good food spread.

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Not only did they have a large variety of food, but they also had one of the sweetest 6AM selections I’ve ever seen.

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But more than anything the lounge just felt so Icelandic, between the decor, music, etc. It’s also the first lounge I’ve been to where they had actual candles burning at most tables.

Icelandair Business Class Seat

Icelandair’s fleet consists solely of 757s, and they have a Saga Class (business class) cabin arranged in a 2-2 configuration.

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The seats have roughly 40 inches of pitch, so are slightly more comfortable than domestic first class seats in the US. The recline is limited, but that’s almost a blessing since it means the person seated in front of you doesn’t end up in your lap.

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There are also foot rests, and the seats in general just feel fresh and well padded.

There’s also a shockingly extensive personal entertainment system, which had dozens upon dozens of movies, TV shows, and music (yes, even Sigur Ros).

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Icelandair Business Class Food

There were menus for the short three hour flight to Frankfurt, with the choice between scrambled eggs and a bagel with lox. I chose the latter.

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While it wasn’t a huge breakfast, the bagel was the best I’ve had on a plane, and I thought the presentation was nice.

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Icelandair Business Class Service

As I noted when I first arrived in Iceland, on the whole I didn’t find the locals to be especially warm.

However, the business class flight attendant on this sector was an absolute delight. I was snapping pictures of the cabin nonstop (after all, when paying for business class I’ve gotta get my money’s worth), and she was smiling about it.

Towards the end of the flight she said “you look familiar, you fly with us a lot, right?” Odd! But now that I think about it, when I was in Iceland I was mostly addressed in Icelandic and not English. Maybe I look Icelandic? I dunno!

In terms of what made her awesome, towards the end of the flight I asked if I could just take a look at the champagne they served. I just wanted to photograph the bottle. She brought me the bottle, said “please drink it,” and gave me a few chocolates to go along with it.

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Don’t mind if I do!

Icelandair Business Class Bottom Line

I’ll have a full trip report soon, but I was actually really impressed by Icelandair. The product felt really “fresh,” the service was friendly, the food good, and the entertainment selection impressive.

This isn’t a longhaul business class product. It’s better than intra-Europe business class, but not as good as longhaul business class. I wouldn’t fly this all the way to Europe if I could avoid it.

That being said, if I wanted to do a stopover in Iceland (which I absolutely want to do – even though I just visited I’m dying to return) I think their transatlantic business class fares are really reasonable, and probably the most practical way to visit Iceland.

If you’ve flown Icelandair Saga Class, what has your experience been?

Comments

  1. 1 – Better TATL biz experience? IcelandAir or La Compagnie??

    2 – witness any good bar fights? I was shocked at how many brawls we saw break out over the course of a weekend. It got to the point where we made a youtube video out of it. They drink, A LOT.

  2. It is nice that you get ANY food because they do not serve food in coach. 🙂 I know that from personal experience! 😉

  3. Back in 2005 I was on the same KEF-JFK back with Metallica. They were in Saga and I was in the back. If it is good enough for Metallica, it is good enough for you 😉

    Then again, maybe not.

  4. Saga class was quite a lot more than coach on my one-way from Europe to the U.S. in June (with stopover)…I believe it was close to $3,000. So, it stuck it out in coach and both flights were actually very pleasant. Having an empty middle seat and both legs being day flights certainly didn’t hurt. A nice little airline.

  5. I know Delta flies JFK->KEF. Is there any way to use skymiles to go from KEF to Europe (would assume AMS or CDG are the main skyteam connections). Would be curious if there was a way to use skypesos for a European trip that included iceland.

  6. I’ve taken advantage of their J fares several times to get between the UK and the US–it works just fine for daytime westbound flights to the US, but on the overnight eastbound sectors the lack of a sleeper seat (or even a decent recliner seat) definitely hurts.

    Also, because their lounge is in the Schengen zone of the airport (which is pretty much the entire airside of KEF except for the downstairs boarding gates at the tip of the concourse), when you’re flying between the US and the UK you have to go through passport control to access the lounge, and then again prior to boarding. On the other hand, I’ve never waited more than three minutes to get through passport control, and there is no additional security checkpoint in either direction.

  7. looking forward to the full report. I’ve always been fascinated by them and have almost flown them a few times. Is the stopover only allowed in one direction or the other or can you stopover both ways? Might be a nice way to break up a trip to stop in both directions

  8. @alex short answer, no. Though Alitalia has a charter during the summer there to Rome, though I’m pretty sure you can’t book an award on that route.

  9. Hi Lucky, I’m a Silver member of their Saga Club, and I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve only flown FI to/from the US, never on any European routes. That said, there’s no difference between the 7.5-hour flights to/from Denver than what you outlined in this short pre-report for a three-hour flight, except there are more meal options. The seats are the same, and while they are comfortable, they’re not the typical business class lie-flat seats that are so in demand now, which, despite the relative short flight times from most US gateways, could influence some people’s decision.

    The IFE has been upgraded and is quite good (compared to the no-IFE days when I started flying them), but I still find catering to be hit-and-miss – about a year ago I flew Saga Class BOS-KEF and economy back, and the food was far better in economy than what was served up front on my way there. Maybe I just chose the wrong thing, but my friend had a different meal from me and agreed that the economy food won on that trip. Overall I’ve rarely been disappointed like that, but I haven’t been overly impressed, either.

    There has also been quite a revolution in the attention on board as Iceland has become a more popular destination, in my experience. For years the service was efficient but not friendly, but in recent years I have noticed a definite up-tic in the FA’s friendliness (with the exception of the Iceland Airwaves flights, on which the pax want a Tomorrowland-style experience and the FAs want everyone to calm down and go to sleep) and attention to detail, even in economy.

    With the direct, non-stop flight out of my US base, DEN, and since 7-8 hours really isn’t long-haul to me anymore, the lack of a lie-flat seat isn’t a deal-breaker (and if flying from the East coast, it’s 2-3 hours less) when compared to the additional time needed for a connection in JFK on DL. Their recent improvements in seat comfort and IFE have made the experience better, and, after all, if you’re going to Iceland, what better way to get there than on the flag carrier?

  10. @ Alex — Hah, no good bar fights. And La Compagnie is definitely better side-by-side, not that they compete in any markets.

  11. @ alex — Unfortunately I don’t believe there’s any SkyTeam service to Iceland. Would be nice…

  12. @ RakSiam — That’s a good question. I believe it’s just one stopover, but I could be mistaken.

  13. Oh nice you got out before the volcano spews forth! Don’t get stranded in Europe due to volcanic ash flight restrictions. 😉

  14. Interesting take on Icelandair. We flew AMS-KEF-AMS in Saga Class in July, and our experience could not have been more different. For both of our flights, the seats on our aircraft were in poor condition (battered, stained), crew was indifferent and the food was lousy (though not as terrible as what CZ served on PEK-AMS on another segment of that trip). I’m glad I tried them, but FI is not high on my list for repeat business.

  15. @ALCO: You are correct – not all of their aircraft have been refurbished, and the old interiors are truly old and uncomfortable. The new interiors include an Economy Comfort “cabin” (not really a separate cabin even though they call it that), so if you find yourself in the position of needing to fly FI in the future, if Economy Comfort is offered it’s a refurbished plane.

  16. @ Serion — Right, the question was whether you can book Delta and connect to another SkyTeam carrier to Europe from there. Sorry if my phrasing was confusing.

  17. I took advantage of the Alaska Air and Icelandair partnership in Nov 2012. I put the trip together quickly when they announced the termination if their partnership. We flew saga class SEA-KEF-AMS with a four day layover in REK. I was a bit apprehensive since I read many mixed reviews of Icelandair. I absolutely loved Icelandair, I usually fly first and business class so I have many experiences to compare. The aircraft was fairly new and seats very comfortable. They give you a down comforter and pillow, headphones and amenity kit. The food service was primarily fresh Icelandic fish and the best food I have had on an airline. The crew was professional and friendly and I loved hearing everyone speak Icelandic. As Lucky said the Saga Lounge is great. If you want a truly Icelandic experience I would highly recommend flying Icelandair Saga Class. I am very sad I can no longer use Alaska Air miles to get to Iceland as I would do it again in a heartbeat!

  18. I flew FI LHR-KEF and KEF-SEA in August 2013. I even found FI Economy reasonably pleasant (more leg room than domestic carriers). I was quite surprised, since I’d expected a badly cramped seating arrangement from what I’d read online. (Not sure whether I was on refurbished planes.)

  19. Flew ANC-KEF-HEL in the back of the bus. Beforehand I was anxious – haven’t flown longhaul in eco for a long time. Was a very pleasant surprise – good seats, good entertainment, OK food. Definitely worth the sub-300$ I paid for it (and got the AY miles – AY being the only 3rd party FFP you can credit your FI flights)

    (Funny thing – they have 2 KEF-HEL flights within 5 minutes of each other from adjacent gates. Quite a confusion, to say the least)

  20. @ leah — Well business class has a lot more seat width, shoulder space, and a bit more legroom. Definitely looked a bit more comfortable to me. And there’s a good food and drink selection. What’s the fare difference?

  21. @ leah — 1919 has a better location, though otherwise far preferred the Hilton. It has a fantastic club lounge, and the hotel feels fresher. Personally I’d choose the Hilton.

  22. Good to know. I’m also really curious about Thingholt. And 101 too, as hotels go. But I’m most curious and excited about Icelandic horses and can’t wait to see them. Thanks for your input Lucky.

  23. Icelandair had an opportunity to show great customer care and service…but they blew it. They did however say, “if you would like to pay the upgraded price of another, $1,000 dollars we would love to provide the upgrade. The reason we asked for an upgrade was due to an injury that occurred to my Mother-In-Law during the last few days in Iceland. My wife, daughter and Mother-In-Law had to change their flight plans costing an extra $1,700.00 dollars. My Mother-In-Law purchased insurance, but they would only refund her $800.00. They said that she still had to pay the ticket difference for changing dates. The lady told me, “We are not a medical flight” You need to speak with the American Embassy, maybe they will pay the difference for you to upgrade to first class.” I told her that my Mother-In-Law is authorized to travel. It is a matter of making it more comfortable for her. She had already paid the $1,700.00. People when you travel, especially using Icelandair, and even if you buy flight Insurance, ask exactly what that covers. And don’t expect any sympathy from Icelandair…in less of course you purchase it for $2,700.00 dollars.

  24. @ Vini — I don’t know unfortunately, to be honest. First writing the EY/QR inaugural trip reports. Sorry!

  25. We flew Saga class round trip from USA to Iceland, and from Iceland to Scotland. The amenities, comfort, service, and food are comparable to USA domestic business class flights, which makes it a definite step or two below what I’ve experienced on business class on Delta, United, and Alitalia when flying USA Europe. The value just isn’t there. Economy plus seats looked exactly the same, so I’ll try that next time.

  26. WORST AIRLINE IVE EVER BOOKED WITH!!!!! PLEASE READ BEFORE BOOKING WITH THEM!! I booked my boyfriend and I flights for June and GOT CANCELATION INSURANCE. Back in February personal things came up and we had to cancel, 5 months in advance!!! They refused to give us all our money back, refused to let us talk to a manager, and refused any customer service.

    We both travel multiple times a year and never had this problem before. They stole our money.
    They are so rude and have no respect for their customers.

    I’ve read multiple reviews and heard the same thing so please DO NOT FLY WITH THIS COMPANY.

    SPEND THE EXTRA COUPLE HUNDRED AND BE TREATED FAIR AND BE WITH AN ESTABLISHED COMPANY THAT CARES ABOUT THEIR CLIENTS

  27. I was told today that Saga Fares were Fully Refundable up to one week after the Flight! I only asked about Saga.

    There website said essentially that,but I wanted to confirm as I will use that as backup to UA Award Business if the Seats do not come thru!

  28. I have a PhD and three degrees in engineering and worked in R&D at elite places for 20 years and we used to fly Iceland Air business in the 90s because we considered it “the intelligent man’s first class”. What you got was the quality of passenger. I remember I had just come back from working with a world class medical doctor at his hospital in Sweden and mentioned his name to a fellow passenger who said “I know him”. When you fly in the bed in Virgin you get some really low class people for example and moronic air hostesses and such “reality show TV” vulgar people or some overpaid arrogant manager of low education. Also the Virgin upper class has no button hole in the serviette, whereas you do have a hole in your Icelandair business class napkin you can button the napkin to your shit. Another nice thing of the Icelandair business class is the Brennivin. I used to love it. Now I am flying them again for the first time next month. I wonder what it will be like. I enjoyed very much stopping in Iceland both ways. What a great time I had on those flights! The Minneapolis one is a good flight for you see icebergs and the like.

  29. Sucks. Sucks. Sucks. Just finished a round-the-world trip in business class in which I experienced 6 different airlines. Iceland Air was by far the worst. Seats are ridiculous for a transatlantic flight — hardly any recline. Hardly any space between you and your neighbor. Made sleep impossible. No better than domestic business class. No control over coach passengers using lavatory up front. Had to wait 30 minutes to use it. Food was simply awful. Beverage selection was poor. Very few new movies. Reykjavik Airport requires business class passengers to herd onto a bus with everyone to ferry out to the plane. I will never fly this product again.

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