Icelandair's phantasmagorical Aurora Borealis livery
Icelandair celebrates its 80th anniversary this year and has long punched above its weight in terms of the creativity of its product, marketing and route network. It's added an innovative themed livery onto one of its Boeing 757 aircraft too, with this striking Northern Lights inspired fuselage.
The Aurora Borealis has become big business in recent years, and seeing the spectral phenomenon is on most people's travelling wish list.
The theme appears in the cabin too, where lighting represents the swirling green and blue hues of the Aurora Borealis
How can Icelandair work for you?
Getting to Iceland: unsurprisingly Icelandair has more flights to Iceland than any other airline. It flies from seven UK airports to the capital city of Reykjavik - including Aberdeen, Birmingham, Glasgow, London Heathrow and Stansted, and Manchester - with Belfast starting on the 1st of June. Other European destinations include Barcelona, Paris and Milan, and there are also nonstop flights from Reykjavik to 18 cites in the US and Canada - Boston, New York and Toronto among them - and the two new North American cities for 2017 are Philadelphia (from May 30th) and Tampa (from September 7th).
Crossing the Atlantic: the airline's route network harnesses the country's geographic position in mid Atlantic; and with Reykjavik a 3-4 hour flight from London, Paris or Copenhagen, and a five hour flight from New York, Boston or Washington, the carrier targets passengers crossing the Atlantic from Europe to the USA and vs. vs. In fact Icelandair flies to 44 cities in 16 countries, which is quite something considering that the total population of Iceland is just 330,000. Icelandair fares from the UK to the US and Canada start from £369 return.
Free stopovers: with many airlines it can cost more to make a stopover on the way to your destination, but for many decades now Icelandair won't charge any extra air fare for stopping over for a few days in Iceland either on the way to the US, on the way back, or both, regardless of how cheap the fare you've paid. For some stopover suggestions see Icelandair stopovers
Pro's: using Icelandair across the Atlantic means you can get to destinations that don't have nonstop flights otherwise - like Anchorage, Halifax and Portland heading west, or Bergen, Hamburg and Trondheim travelling east. Plus if you live in Aberdeen, Belfast or Glasgow say, it makes good sense to shorten the journey time and fly via Reykjavik rather than add mileage by flying south to change planes in London.
Crews are helpful and efficient, Reykjavik airport is a pretty stress free place to change planes, and the airline has 16 shiny new Boeing 737 Max's on order. All Icelandair aircraft are fitted with touch screen seat-back in flight entertainment (IFE) screens.
& Cons: for anyone paying discounted economy fares, the airline feels like a low cost carrier these days, especially now that food and drink has to be paid for by economy class passengers - even on the seven hour Reykjavik-Anchorage sector. Economy Comfort and Economy Comfort Special fares do include a free meal, but are pricier. The company had grand plans to renew its fleet until the global financial crisis of 2008 delayed things rather. So the fleet of Boeing 757 aircraft are narrow-body, with a configuration of three-aisle-three and a seat pitch of 32-33 inches, and are getting rather old in the tooth - the oldest aircraft was delivered to Icelandair in 1998. The company also has three Boeing 767-300ER wide body aircraft.
The frequent flyer club: the Saga Club is a good option if you plan to be flying with Icelandair a lot, otherwise its current lack of an affiliated credit card, and few partner airlines, make the scheme of limited use for the general traveller. However you can earn and spend points on Alaska Airlines and Finnair.
Good to know: the airport is 50 kilometres from the capital at Keflavik. It's as near to being cute as an airport can get - with lots of wood in the decor, small and walkable, and lots of natural light. Changing planes here is usually a breeze. The airport express bus service is hourly and costs from ISK 3,900 return. See Keflavik Airport and Airport Express.
A few facts: Icelandair can trace its roots back to 1937, when a forerunner airline based in Akureyri started flight operations with a seaplane. Another forerunner of Icelandair was called Loftleiðir, which became known as 'the hippie airline', thanks to it carrying budget conscious backpacking Americans to Europe throughout the 1970's. There are currently 30 aircraft in the Icelandair fleet, with an average age of 21.2 years.