I decided to visit Mauritania in December 2018. This is a country I wanted to go to see for a long time and it seemed that – after a period of ten years or so when it was considered too dangerous to go – Mauritania was again safe to visit.
Although not many airlines fly to Mauritania, finding the best route from my home airport Keflavík, Iceland to Nouakchott offered a great number of combinations. Only Air France flies from mainland Europe, and while it seems to be the obvious choice, the drawbacks are a red-eye return flight and an overpriced business class. Turkish also flies from Istanbul but it’s a long detour and the flight times are not very convenient. Royal Air Maroc flies daily from Casablanca with good connections for Europe, and the return flight is in the morning, not at night. Both economy and business class seem to be reasonably good, but the latter is quite expensive, although not as much as Air France. Other airlines flying to Nouakchott include Air Algérie and Tunisair but they fly only a few times a week using uncomfortable aircrafts and short red-eye return flights – not the best options for me. Mauritania Airlines flies from Casablanca – would have been interesting to try. Eventually I flew with Bintar Canarias from Las Palmas – this airline has good reviews, reasonable prices and schedules that suit me. My return flight was with Royal Air Maroc as I had to go anyway to Morocco for work right after my stay in Mauritania.
Icelandair used to offer a three-class configuration – economy, premium economy, and business called Saga – but premium economy was discontinued earlier in 2018 and business class fares were halved on many routes, especially to London while the standard of the service was kept. I paid about 385 € return – a very good value for business class. British Airways charges 520 € for a clearly inferior service on the same route.
My flight was scheduled to leave at 07.45. I received a text message from Icelandair at 2.30 at night that the flight was delayed to 08.20. Nevertheless, I had to wake up early and drive about 40 minutes to the airport. I arrived at 6.15.
Wow Air has flights to Europe early, between 6am and 7am. The news in Iceland have been full about how close they have been to bankruptcy, so I believe it’s unlikely they’ll be still on the market for a long time. They had to return several of their leased aircrafts, and the ground service company used by them just fired around half of its employees.
Icelandair flies to Europe between 7am and 8am, while a variety of other airlines such as Easyjet, British, Norwegian, Lufthansa or SAS fly later in the day.
Icelandair offers several check-in options: on-line, self check-in at the airport and check-in at staffed desks. As you can see the check-in desks, which used to have long queues, are now almost empty – most passengers check-in on-line or already checked in earlier at the airport.
Once checked in you need to go upstairs. Icelandair’s Saga (business) class comes with priority security which took only around three minutes.
This is what you see once you pass security.
Yes, Christmas is approaching. You can see Jólakötturinn (Christmas Cat) in the middle.
Cafés and shops are available at the main part of the terminal.
But I went directly to the Icelandair lounge – actually the only one at the airport – located near gate A15, in the Schengen Area, so before passport control.
The lounge has several, well separated parts. It had plenty of available seating when I arrived, and as my flight was delayed, it was completely empty when I left.
I love these old photos
The choice of food for breakfast is very similar to what you would find at a good midrange hotel in Iceland
There’s a good choice of drinks – most of them are obviously not for the morning departures.
But the coffee machine is very useful for the early departures. Icelanders drink more coffee per capita than anybody else in the world.
Note that there are toilets and showers inside the lounge (no photos)
I left the lounge for the passport control. The automated gates were closed but there were no queues at the staffed ones so I was through in no time. Passengers need to go down one floor after immigration where there’s a smaller duty free shop and a food shop – I had no reason to stop this time.
Boarding started a few minutes after I got to the gate. Priority boarding was not enforced (it usually is) but as there were not many passengers it was not an issue.
Today’s aircraft was a B737 named Jökulsárlón (Glacier Lagoon). Icelandair used to have only B757s in its fleet for many years, and while they’re not particularly fuel efficient I really like them. But a few more modern B737s have been acquired very recently, so the interior of this plane was almost brand new and of course in a perfect condition.
Icelandair’s business class has a 2+2 configuration with proper US Domestic First Class type seats – very comfortable for intra-European flights. There are four rows in business class with a total of 16 seats. Load was 6/16.
I selected seat 1C (no extra charge).
The monitors are on the bulkhead for the first row of seats.
I was offered a cherry, orange and cardamom juice shot which was very good
A bottle of Icelandic water was also offered
And so were noise-cancelling headphones
The safety demonstration was very unusual. A new safety video started on the screens (and it was quite uninteresting while the previous one was much better with nice Icelandic landscape), but it stopped, a manual safety presentation was done, after which the video continued. Maybe the cabin crew was not familiar enough with using the video equipment on this new aircraft?
The captain announced an expected flight time of two hours and 35 minutes. Push-back was at 08.35 (for a scheduled departure of 07.45) and we took off at 08.45.
A hot towel was offered after the seatbelts signs had been turned off.
While there was a printed menu it was brought at the same time as breakfast as there was no choice anyway
Breakfast tasted however very good and was clearly well above the average of what you’d get on most other intra-European business class flights.
A close-up on the main course: french toast, bacon, asparagus and egg cheese roll
Skyr – Icelandic cheese that looks like yoghurt – was of course also offered.
I had tea with some chocolate after breakfast
The cabin crew passed through the cabin very regularly to check if any of the passengers needed anything
Icelandair’s in-flight entertainment offers a choice of 47 movies, 222 TV shows (including many documentaries about Iceland but also some Netflix productions such as Narcos) and 475 music tracks.
Our approach to London-Gatwick
The scheduled time of arrival was 10.50 but we landed at 11.22 (and got to the gate at 11.30), about 40 minutes behind schedule.
Thank you for reading my flight review and please feel free to comment.
Saga Lounge - Principal/Main
Reykjavík - KEF
London - LGW
Icelandair offers a good value, real business class product for those travelling between Iceland and other parts of Europe.
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