Icelandair Is Adding Flights To San Francisco As Of June 2018

Icelandair is on a roll this week. Two days ago the airline announced their first new route of 2018, as they’ll begin 3x weekly seasonal flights between Iceland and Kansas City as of May 2018. Then yesterday they announced that they’ll offer 4x weekly flights between Iceland and Baltimore as of May 2018. Today they’re announcing their third new route of 2018.

Icelandair will add 4x weekly flights between Iceland and San Francisco as of June 1, 2018. The route will be operated with the following schedule:

FI863 Keflavik to San Francisco departing 5:00PM arriving 6:55PM [Sun, Tue, Wed, Fri]
FI862 San Francisco to Keflavik departing 3:15PM arriving 6:30AM (+1 day) [Mon, Wed, Thu, Sat]

The flight will cover a distance of 4,204 miles, making it Icelandair’s longest route. The flight is blocked at 8hr55min westbound and 8hr25min eastbound. It will be operated by a Boeing 767-300, featuring 259 seats, including 25 business class seats (which are more like domestic first class on a US airline), 18 premium economy seats, and 216 economy seats. Icelandair has just four 767s in their fleet.

Icelandair’s business class

This flight isn’t just useful if you’re trying to visit Iceland, but rather Icelandair is known for how they use Keflavik Airport as a connecting point between North America and mainland Europe. With them you can fly from over a dozen cities in North America to over a dozen cities in Europe. Best of all, Icelandair allows a free stopover in Iceland on a roundtrip ticket, which is a great way to explore one of the most breathtaking countries without having to pay extra in airfare.

As you’ll notice based on the schedule, the aircraft utilization on this route is terrible, as the plane sits on the ground in San Francisco for about 20 hours. This is because Icelandair’s route network is based so heavily around optimizing connections between the US and Europe, so the priority is that all flights are timed to maximize connections in Iceland. They’d rather have a plane sit idle for 20 hours (which is very expensive, typically not just in terms of the actual parking costs, but also in terms of the opportunity cost) in order to ensure that it’s optimized for connections.

Icelandair’s new San Francisco flight is now bookable on their website, and fares start at ~$500 roundtrip in economy, which is cheap. In many cases fares are only marginally more expensive to other destinations in Europe. Icelandair is significantly more full service than WOW Air, as they don’t charge for carry-ons, etc., so this can represent a very good deal.

WOW Air has been flying to San Francisco since the summer of 2016, and they also fly to Los Angeles. It’s interesting to see Icelandair add flights to San Francisco now, especially as they’ve flown to San Francisco in the past and weren’t able to make the economics work. Personally I’m surprised to see them try again. With the 20 hours of ground time in San Francisco, and presumably very high parking costs, I just can’t figure out how they hope to turn a profit on this route. Maybe the airport is giving them some sort of incentives, though I doubt it, given how close to capacity SFO is, and how much international service they already have.

In terms of earning and redeeming miles on this flight, Icelandair’s most useful US airline partner is Alaska Airlines. You can earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles on Icelandair, as follows:

And here are the redemption rates, should you want to redeem miles (though given how cheap paid tickets are, I can’t imagine doing that):

Anyone plan to take Icelandair’s new flight to San Francisco?

(Featured image courtesy of Tony Hisgett)


  1. You keep harking on about BA having an awful business class…how about this? It’s not even a flat seat on a flight over 4000 miles long…

    BA has its faults but Jesus…I bet you won’t fly this lol

  2. Has lucky ever actually reviewed Icelandair? he needs to put his money where his mouth is. Which usually seems to be on swiss behind

  3. That’s a long flight in that crappy business class seat! I thought there was talk of them finally updating their business class a while ago. I guess that got dropped.

  4. I am surprised about them returning to SFO. I just don’t see how they can make money on this route with the low fares and competition with WOW. Not to mention you have a wide body sit on the ground overnight. I have flown “Saga” class before and it’s on par with Virgin America from JFK to LAX at best.

  5. Could they turn this plane around for a 9pm-ish departure from SFO and a noon arrival at Keflavik? Is there not an afternoon bank of flights from Keflavik that passengers with onward connections to Europe could use?

  6. Come on Lucky. You are a journalist. Do your research both BWI and SFO aren’t new routes for Icelandair. They have previously served both destinations.

  7. I flew Icelandair Business from KEF to SEA and it was a pretty bad experience, small legroom and the seats just aren’t comfortable. Most domestic First class has better seats. Can’t imagine 8-9hrs flight on this product…

  8. Presumably there is an upside to a 20 hour layover – the same flight and cabin crew can work both legs.

  9. No thanks. Always want to go to Iceland but 8.5 hours in those crammed business class seats… pass…However, from nyc to Iceland is 5.5 hour in those seats which look more tolerable. And talk about those “worst business class seats”in the world on BA…. I guess people would rather crammed in these seats or take a super dated India Air business class seats because apparently they are better than BA business class seats! Go figure…

  10. Icelandair business class seats are like 1980’s domestic first class but then their business class fares are less.

  11. @anon: “Has lucky ever actually reviewed Icelandair? he needs to put his money where his mouth is.”

    It took exactly one click from this page to see that he reviewed their J product in August of 2014.

  12. Lucky,

    SFO is “saturated” but isn’t that mostly a matter of landing and takeoff slots rather than gates?

    And if so then it would make sense for SFO to grant more slots to international widebody flights and less to, say a regional jet or turbo prop going to Santa Rosa, Fresno or Monterrey?

  13. @ Martin — That’s correct. There’s definitely room to park the plane, my point was more that I doubt that SFO will give Icelandair a similar arrangement to what MCI has done, where they’re essentially waiving most of the fees and even offering incentives. So there’s definitely room for Icelandair, it’s just that I think parking a plane there for 20 hours per day will cost them an arm and a leg. I could be wrong.

  14. One other reason it’s probably not a good idea to redeem Alaska miles for Icelandair: carrier surcharges *are* imposed on Icelandair award tickets.

  15. One should fly Icelandair only when it’s the best means of visiting Iceland itself. For a long time, Icelandair was the only way to get to Iceland. That’s no longer true. Icelandair is tolerable on a short flight from IAD or JFK but never enjoyable. Iceland is a phenomenal place to visit. Go. And fly another airline (NOT WOW) if you can.

  16. WOW sees to always have ridiculously low fare sales to Europe while Icelandair is no super-bargain. I just haven’t seen where it’s fares are unusually low to Europe ever.

    Granted they give a free carryon while WOW doesn’t and WOW way-overcharges for a bag. But if you can deal with just a small backpack WOW is a steal.

    I just don’t see the huge expansion if they can’t compete with WOW on price.

  17. I can guarantee Lucky will never use WOW lmao…he will hyperventilate just at the thought of rubbing shoulders with so many roughians…

  18. Jack

    You can fly to Iceland on other airlines but that involves a change of planes and, in most cases I can think of, going to Europe first.

    So you can fly on nicer planes with nicer seats and better service. But you will be more tired and jetlagged when you arrive. The point of premium travel is to arrive more quickly and in a better state, surely?

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