Hello and welcome to a new short series of flights.
This year for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, we decided on a trip to Iceland. There would be 6 of us meeting up in Iceland, with 3 flying from Washington, DC. There is no shortage of nonstop flights to Iceland from the DC area, with 2 daily back-to-back Icelandair flights from Washington-Dulles (IAD) and 2 daily WOW Air flights along with 4X weekly Icelandair service from Baltimore-Washington (BWI).
Being a oneworld loyalist, I don't often venture out-of-alliance, but as new American Airlines service from Dallas wasn't due to begin until June 2018, we decided to go with the most convenient option for the outbound flight, a nonstop with Icelandair from IAD. For the return from Iceland, however, we burned some Delta Skymiles which routed us through New York JFK.
For our annual friends group trip we tend to book early. The Icelandair tickets were booked back in January at the reasonable price of $240 for the one-way. Saga Business class was going for about $750 for the one-way, which I would consider to be a decent price; however, I decided on Economy, as I generally tend to avoid paying for premium cabins out-of-alliance. Icelandair does have a bid-to-upgrade programme–more on that later.
When booking back in January, I selected flight FI644 specifically as it was scheduled to be operated by a B767-300ER. As an #AvGeek, of course I chose the less common aircraft type. As mentioned earlier, Icelandair operate two back-to-back flights from Washington-Dulles during the spring/summer season. At the time, FI648 was due to be operated by the more-common 752 departing at 20:30, with FI644 scheduled to depart 5 minutes later at 20:35.
FI644 originally due to be operated by a B763ER
Alas, it was not meant to be as the B763 was swapped for a B752 in April. Coincidentally, this is about the time that Icelandair discontinued offering Economy Comfort (Premium Economy), which consisted of a type of Euro-Biz with an Economy seat with more legroom and blocked middle-seat. Out of curiosity, I checked out the seat map and was pleasantly surprised to discover that formerly Economy Comfort seats were available at no additional charge.
I make a habit of checking seat assignments periodically as I've had them moved on several occasions on multiple airlines. Unsurprisingly, the extra-legroom seats at no extra charge were too good to be true. The extra-legroom seats were now priced between 45 and 65 USD. This has been common practice in the industry for quite some time, so I was fully expecting Icelandair to go in this direction after discontinuing Economy Comfort–I'm just surprised it took them several weeks to do it.
With the advent of paid premium seating, our seats had been moved to the last row, which I did not mind as the last row is usually the best chance of having an open middle seat.
I also noticed that the aircraft seating configuration had changed. There were now only 5 rows of Saga Business class, instead of 6 rows, the more common FI 752 configuration.
Normally I wouldn't care, but I had just bid to upgrade to Business class, so one less row of J meant 4 less seats available for upgrade.
I bid $300 to upgrade, which I felt was a reasonable offer for a 5 hour red-eye in Domestic First recliner type seats. And if the upgrade went through, I'd still be paying $200 less than the original price of a one-way in J.
A few days before the flight, only 1 seat was showing available for purchase in Business and sure enough, 24 hours prior to departure, I received confirmation that the upgrades did not go through. Ah well, I tried!
Check-in & Lounge
We arrived at the airport a little over 2 hours before departure. Though we had checked in online and didn't have any bags to check, we stopped by the ticket counter to print boarding passes as mobile boarding passes are not available for flights to/from the U.S. for some reason.
There were no self-service kiosks at the Icelandair counter so we had to get in line to get our boarding passes. The wait was very short and the agents at the ticket counter were very friendly. I was a bit surprised at first when the agents asked to weigh our carry-on bags, but remembered Icelandair can be strict with cabin baggage. Our bags were a little more than 1 kg over the 10 kg weight limit so the agents advised they would have to check our bags. I didn't really mind since it was a nonstop flight and it was just one less thing to lug around.
Afterwards we headed straight to the East security checkpoint. Unfortunately, Icelandair does not participate in the Known Traveler program so we did not have access to TSA Pre-check lanes. Luckily, the lines at security were short and we were through in a few minutes.
Departures board showing the back-to-back Icelandair flights. Notice how flight 644 and 648 have switched departure times since the time the tickets were originally booked.
Though the Icelandair gates are on Concourse A, we took the train to Concourse B to head to the Turkish Airlines lounge before boarding.
Looking down the B Concourse towards the A gates
The Turkish Airlines Lounge is conveniently located towards the middle of the terminal, on the B Concourse but close to the A gates.
Gaining access to the Turkish Airlines lounge with Priority Pass during the evening Transatlantic departures rush can be hit or miss as the lounge is on the small side and can get very crowded. Luckily, this was not the case and it was pleasantly less crowded than I'd seen it in the past.
The buffet offers a good selection of hot and cold dishes, mostly Turkish/Mediterranean inspired.
I tried a bit of everything
Turkish Airlines A330 arriving as seen from the lounge.
After a pleasant stay at the Turkish Airlines lounge, we headed out to the gate about 5 minutes before the scheduled boarding time.
Boarding had already begun when we arrived at the gate, so we were able to join the queue and board immediately.
Today's flight is operated by TF-ISV, a 19 year old Boeing 757-200.
The interior is new and fresh–the aircraft certainly doesn't appear its age.
Bottles of Icelandic glacial water were distributed by the cabin crew upon boarding.
Legroom was decent with a seat pitch of 32 inches.
Nice view of the 2nd Icelandair flight at the next gate over
The IFE screen is nice; however, the system is not available gate-to-gate.
Ads promoting Iceland stopovers and factoids about Iceland played during boarding.
A reminder that I missed the upgrade ?
Due to a technical problem the 20:35 flight ended up pushing back a few minutes before our flight.
The issue was resolved quickly and we pushed back just a few minutes late
The safety video, showcasing the natural beauty of Iceland, played as we taxied to the runway.
Takeoff with the last rays of sunlight.
Very short flying time under 5 1/2 hours
The IFE system became available after the safety video was shown.
There was a good selection of movies (new and old) and TV series.
Icelandair has an interesting hybrid LCC/Full-service carrier model. The Low-cost carrier aspects are most obvious with the Buy-on-board menu. Icelandair does not provide complimentary meals in Economy on transatlantic flights.
The buy-on-board items are on the expensive side and there are not many hot options.
As I had eaten a full meal in the lounge, I just ordered beer to enjoy with a movie.
As we headed further north throughout the night, you could see a red glow on the horizon.
I managed to get maybe 2 hours of sleep on this short flight and woke up with full daylight outside.
Glad to see breaks in the clouds as the forecast was calling for a rainy day.
First glimpse of land.
Great views of volcanic landscapes during out descent.
We landed right on time.
A new Icelandair B737 Max 8 in the distance.
Taxiing past Icelandair and WOW jets on remote stands
Including the beautiful Vatnajökull special livery.
We ended up parking on a remote stand ourselves. I was regretting having checked my carry-on bag as I was in short sleeves!
We parked next to one of the new 737 Max 8 jets. I'm not a fan of the new simplified livery on the Max fleet.
Despite the cold, deplaning from a remote stand is always fun for an #AvGeek for the good views.
As we were able to deplane from the aft door, we were among the first people of the aircraft and it didn't take long for the first bus to fill up. Once we got to the terminal however, it was a crowded mess. It took a good 30 minutes of queuing up to go up the stairs just to make it to the immigration hall. Luckily, once I was there, there was no wait for the European passport lanes. It's nice having two passports ^^
These types of crowds during the arrival banks show that the Icelandic tourism boom is still in full effect.
Hekla Aurora special livery at the Terminal.
Thanks for reading! There will be an Iceland tourism bonus in the next report.
Turkish Airlines Lounge
Washington - IAD
Reykjavík - KEF
Overall, it was a pleasant flight. The cabin is fresh and new for an older aircraft and the seats themselves were comfortable with good legroom. Though in the last row, there was a good sized gap between the back of the seats and the wall so the seats had full recline--this is nice, especially knowing you're not bothering anyone behind you when reclining. The IFE system was quite nice with a decent library of movies and shows. Cabin crew were friendly and efficient. The BoB menu was on the expensive side and could have used more hot options.
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