A Brutally Honest Icelandair Review (What Went Wrong?!)

Icelandair Review

Have you ever taken a flight with Icelandair? We recently had a connection through this famous nordic country. While we’d heard great things in the past, you’ll see that our trip with Icelandair Airlines did not go exactly as expected! Here’s all about our experience, tips for your own flights, and much more in our Icelandair review.

What is Icelandair Airlines?

Icelandair is the national airline for Iceland and is headquartered out of Keflavik Airport. They specialize in domestic flights and internationally mostly between the United States and Europe. 

It isn’t a budget airline by any means, but the prices and baggage included with economy tickets is reasonable. We could see how this would be helpful for those heading to Iceland with equipment for the many adventure sports and activities. 

Many travelers will make the same Icelandair stopover we did as it’s a regular destination en route to North America. We’d actually done this before on our way to Europe a few years prior with a different airline. 

Since we hadn’t booked this Icelandair flight ourselves (more on that soon) we didn’t have many options in the way of seat selection or other extra charges. However, you should know the about the different fare classes available in this Icelandair review. Also, be sure to download the Icelandair app for a digital boarding pass! 

Icelandair Reviews

Icelandair Flight Options

Economy Light: One carry-on bag up to 22 lbs and one personal item to go under the seat.

Economy Standard: Checked bag up to 50 lbs, one carry-on bag, and one personal item.

Saga Premium: Two checked bags (up to 70 lbs each), one carry on, and one personal item. Priority boarding and check-in, seat selection, lounge access, and complimentary meals. 

Economy Flex: Checked bag, carry-on luggage, and personal item. Also, includes seat selection and no change fee.

Saga Premium Flex: Two checked bags, two carry on bags, priority boarding, priority check-in, and seat selection. You’ll also have meal services on board, free wifi, and Saga lounge access where available.

Review of Icelandair

How Did We End Up On Icelandair?

Unlike many of our other airline reviews, we actually didn’t plan to fly on Icelandair! Our story starts in Bulgaria after a wonderful month in the mountain town of Bansko. Unfortunately, Jake was struck down with food poisoning at our Sofia Airport hotel the night before we were supposed to fly out to the United States.

That morning we were able to change our flight to Lufthansa and buy ourselves an extra day for Jake to recover. Our Lufthansa flight took us to Frankfurt where we would have a few hours layover. Yet, after arriving in Germany we were hit with another bombshell in what would become a disastrous series of events. 

As we looked up at the flight monitor, we saw our flight to Boston was canceled! With that, we made our way to the Lufthansa customer service counter to figure out what to do next. The only flight available that would still get us into Boston the same day was through Iceland… Seriously?? 

Running out of options we decided to jump on this Icelandair flight. Even though our route from Frankfurt to Boston was direct, the quick layover in Iceland was only a two hour difference in total time. What could really go wrong we thought?

Icelandair Flight Reviews

2023 Icelandair Review

Our First Flight With Icelandair

Since our travel was off to a horrid start, it was a pleasant surprise boarding our Icelandair flight. The seats were leather, they all had tv’s, and plenty of legroom for economy seats.

We had actually eaten beforehand at our Priority Pass lounge in Frankfurt so we didn’t need to order any food. On the first leg from Europe to Iceland, there were complimentary soft drinks and then snacks and meals for purchase. 

Our Icelandair flight took off on time and before we knew it we were on our way. The total time in-air was just under 4 hours and it went rather smoothly.

The flight attendants were nice and professional and it was a decent start to our Icelandair review. Little did we know, our night was about to get a lot more interesting!

Flying Icelandair

Flying Icelandair Review

Landing at Keflavik International Airport

This is where things got a little crazy. Just as we were about to land the captain came on the loudspeaker and said to expect a bumpy arrival with high winds. We weren’t too concerned, as we knew the weather can often be like this in Iceland. 

Luckily, the captain stuck the landing through the rain and windy conditions. Yet, as we got ready to grab our bags and unload the plane another message came over the speaker system.

“Hey folks. We’re just going to have to wait a few minutes to taxi.” 

After about 20 minutes had passed we started to wonder what was going on. A few minutes later, the captain was back on the loudspeaker.

“Hey, folks. It’s a bit too windy to pull up to the gate. Sit tight and I’ll keep you updated.”

At this point, we began to get slightly irritated. We had already had the travel day from hell… But was it about to get so much worse?! Time started to tick, another 20 minutes, up over an hour and even longer.

We were receiving no updates except from other passengers who were missing their flights or watching them get cancelled. In all fairness, it was crazy weather outside. The plane was literally rocking side to side even when we weren’t moving.

Now realizing there was no way we were getting to Boston that evening, we started frantically looking for hotels. Typically, when an airline causes you to miss your connecting flight, they will have to provide a hotel for you to stay overnight in. 

Either that, or we could book one ourselves and get reimbursed. As we started to look on Booking.com everything was either sold out or over an hour from the airport. What was going on we wondered?

Keflavik International Airport Weather

Walking into the Icelandair Airport

After sitting on the plane for over 2 hours, our plane finally pulled up to the gate and we headed inside. We assumed it was going to be a mess with all the cancellations, but there are no words in this Icelandair review to describe what we saw next. 

As we walked into the airport, someone from Icelandair Airlines explained the situation. Basically, all outbound flights were cancelled that night due to the weather. She handed us an overnight amenity kit which included toothbrushes, an eye mask, and other toiletry essentials. I guess we were about to sleep in the airport!

With that, we headed out into the main lobby of the airport. We honestly couldn’t believe it. There were hundreds of people lying around, on their phones frantically making calls, and looking stressed as could be.

To top it all off, there was a massive line of about 500 people waiting to be taken to local hotels. Literally, we were one of the last flights to arrive so we would be on the very end of that line. To put it simply, we were screwed!

Icelandair Airport Flight Canceled

Icelandair Flight Review

Icelandair Flight Full Review

Sleeping on the Floor in Iceland

Having no other option, we jumped in the back of the line and hoped we could somehow get a hotel. As we mentioned, there was nothing available nearby for under $800 USD per night and the only accommodations were over an hour away. 

There was an announcement that if you booked your own hotel Icelandair would reimburse you for up to 200 euros. That obviously didn’t help us at all with what was available. Even if we had booked something, there were no taxis or Ubers running anyway!

As time went on we felt more and more like we weren’t leaving the airport that night. Buses were taking people to hotels for the next 5 hours, and we just stood there and waited in line. Finally, around 1 a.m. we got towards the front of the line. At that exact moment though, there was another announcement by a member of the Icelandair staff.

“I’m sorry, but it’s too windy for the buses to bring any more people to hotels. We will bring out blankets and water.”

Well it surely was windy outside, it was very apparent that they just had no more hotels for the amount of people at the airport. They didn’t end up bringing any more blankets either, so we picked a spot on the ground and tried to get comfortable. 

Icelandair Reviews

Icelandair Airlines

One Awful Night in Iceland

Just as we were about to give up Jake took one more spin around to the customer service counter. We had already been trying to get our tickets for the next day (as everyone was) but they had said they weren’t assigning them yet.

In the one good stroke of luck we had in this Icelandair review, one of the employees was able to get us on a flight for 5 p.m. the next day. She also said now that we had tickets we could go through security and get to the main gate area where the food court and shops were. The only issue was we had to hurry as it closed in five minutes at 2am!

After getting our tickets we rushed through and made it just in time. The benches in the Icelandair food court weren’t ideal, but much more comfortable than sleeping on the floor in the airport lobby.

Exhausted now, we were able to get a couple of hours of sleep. It’s funny because when we went to bed the food court was completely empty. Yet, we would wake up to dozens of people around us. 

When waking up we hoped we had dozed off for a few hours and it was surely 8 or 9am already. Nope…. 4am. The food court had just opened which caused the rush of people we had before us.

Icelandair Airport

Our Icelandair Hotel Experience

At around 6am we decided to go to the customer service counter and wait until they opened. Since we had until 5pm until our next Icelandair flight we were hoping that maybe some of the hotels had freed up space.

I think the staff took pity on us because they were able to get us a day room at one of the nearby hotels. They even gave us a pass to use the taxis for free. Needless to say, we were ecstatic. The thought of a warm bed and shower was everything to us at that moment.

Unfortunately, once we arrived at our hotel we saw a similar scene to the airport as the night before. People were lying all around the lobby sleeping and there was a waitlist to get a room! Ouch. 

Since we had no other options we added our names to the waiting list and got breakfast at the hotel buffet. About 2.5 hours later they called us up and we got our room.

Hotel Keflavik by Reykjavik Keflavik Airport was honestly very nice and we would highly recommend if you’re looking for a place to stay nearby. The beds were super comfortable, and we passed right out until heading to our Icelandair flight later that day. 

Icelandair Flight Story

Icelandair Review of Our 2nd Flight

We felt slightly refreshed and rejuvenated when we got back to the airport later that day. At the same time, we were still holding our breaths with the pessimism that we weren’t making it home anytime soon.

The airport was swamped and there were many wild conversations overheard about passengers being bussed to hotels. Many solo travelers were told that they had to bunk with strangers the night before if they wanted a room. 

Lucky for us, our 2nd flight with Icelandair Airlines went off without a hitch! Our total flight time was just under six hours and we arrived in Boston late at night.

It was similar to the first of our Icelandair flights as the plane was in really good shape. There were loads of movies and entertainment to pick from and everything was smooth in the air.  We were running on about 4 hours of sleep in the 72 hours so we both fell right asleep.

After landing, we just had to get to our rental car and drive two hours to the Berkshires in Massachusetts where we were visiting family. The rental car situation was another story, as we had to cancel our initial vehicle arriving 2 days off schedule.

However, Boston Logan Airport is very well set up and easy to get cars from. We were able to get another vehicle booked before our 2nd Icelandair flight and picked it up no problem.

8 Top Tips For Renting a Car in Boston Massachussetts 

Full Icelandair Flight Reviews

Full Icelandair Reviews

Icelandair Review Europe to USA

Icelandair Review Final Thoughts

As you can see we had a terrible first experience with Icelandair Airlines. Still, we have to remember that the situation wasn’t entirely their fault. From the moment Jake got food poisoning, it was a domino effect that ultimately led to us spending the night at the Iceland Airport. 

While this may seem like a unique Icelandair review, we found out it wasn’t the first time this has happened at their airport. Our hotel told us that it’s actually super common because of the wild weather on the island nation. 

On top of that, it’s just a tiny airport and country in general. There really aren’t enough accommodations to handle occurrences like this. So how much blame can we really put on the airline at the end of the day?

What made it a little more confusing with the lack of communication from the Icelandair staff. On one hand, sometimes there’s really nothing you can do about the weather and flight cancellations.

We did take this into account when writing our Icelandair review. Yet, we thought they handled the entire thing very poorly. Other than customer service (at the airport) we actually really liked everything about our flight experience. The planes are modern and comfortable, with everything you could expect on an international flight.

So would we fly with Icelandair Airlines again? It wouldn’t be our fist pick… But we’ll never say never!

Full Icelandair Review

Have any questions about this article or want to share your own Icelandair review? Leave us a comment below! 

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

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Plan Your Next Adventure

 Flights: We always find our cheap flight deals using Skyscanner. That’s how we flew from Norway to Poland for under $20 USD, and Thailand to Vietnam for less than $50! 

Trains: When traveling through Europe make sure to check Omio for the best train and bus routes.

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com, Agoda, & Vrbo.

Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to explore when traveling. We recommend searching for a weekly rate rather than just booking for 2-3 days.

 Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find thousands of activities around the world. From street food tours to skip the line entry passes, they have it all!

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

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8 Comments

  1. MARIA GOLISH
    February 17, 2024 / 3:48 pm

    I agree with CD above. The weather was not Iceland airlines fault. I have traveled extensively all over the world and this type of thing happens on Singapore, Emirates and all the domestic airlines. So often the flight or gate crew simply do not know what is happening next. There is a team of literally a few people at the airports trying to direct hundreds of incoming and outgoing flights in a matter of a couple hours. And make sure everyone stays alive!

    It seems like you’ve never had a bad flight experience before. I guess you’ve never flown domestically through Chicago, Denver, Buffalo or even Orlando which quite often shuts down due to lightning more than other airports due for snow or winds. Kudos to Iceland for giving you a room due to weather (domestically you would not have received on), albeit was a wait. You still got one. And you got a flight the next day. You think United or American would have gotten you another flight so quickly?

    I live in Denver and even though the airport is prepared for this, there is nothing they can do when 25,000 people get stranded. They are piled up 3 and 4 deep against the walls in the airport. There are about 9000 hotel rooms within 10 miles, but good luck getting out of the airport.

    I think you need to become a business traveler for 10 or 15 years to have any real experience which qualifies you to give such a review. Your little “nightmare” getaway trip connecting in Iceland certainly does not.

    • Brigitte & Jake
      Author
      February 18, 2024 / 4:04 am

      Hey Maria,

      We’ve traveled quite extensively as well, to over 70 countries. That’s included a few flights as you can imagine (-: These airline reviews are based on our own experiences (both good and bad) so we had to share this one.

      Obviously, there’s nothing you can do about the weather. As we explained, the issues started after Lufthansa cancelled our direct flight to Boston and told us the only option was to connect with a partner airline.

      The fact that we were never supposed to be in Iceland to begin with definitely added to our frustrations. Have a great day!

  2. Carlie Jane Pitter
    January 3, 2024 / 2:34 pm

    I was wondering if this would be the same for summer flights. We have plans to go to EU and there’s a cheaper flight which has a 1.5 stop over in Iceland. Reading this, it makes me having second thoughts since you mentioned this is common due to the weather.

    • Brigitte & Jake
      Author
      January 3, 2024 / 2:40 pm

      Probably not as common during the summer, but the weather can be unpredictable. If you’re not actually traveling to Iceland on holiday might be best to avoid… especially on such a short layover. Hope that helps!

  3. CD Jackson
    January 1, 2024 / 2:37 pm

    I don’t see anything that was Icelandair’s fault on your first flight. You’d have the same experience anywhere if weather was so bad that all outgoing flights were cancelled. This review and headline gives the wrong impression since your second Icelandair flight was great yet you devote only a fraction of your review to that experience — and I’d like to hear more about a more normal trip on this airline.

    • Brigitte & Jake
      Author
      January 2, 2024 / 3:59 am

      Weather can be expected of course. It was more just how they handled it that was super surprising. An Icelandair employee told us it happens all the time there so no idea how they were so underprepared. Not even blankets for the hundreds of people that had to sleep on the floor when they ran out of hotels? Seems crazy.

      We would like to fly with the company again and give it another shot. Sorry if you didn’t find the review helpful, but people should know what they’re risking trying to make a connection through Iceland.

  4. November 3, 2023 / 8:58 am

    Travel delays are so exhausting when they go as planned! Such a bummer to hear about your experience. It’s really nice of you to share your review so people know what to except (especially if that’s the norm) with Icelandair.

    • Brigitte & Jake
      Author
      November 3, 2023 / 9:00 am

      Yeah we’re sure it’s not the norm and we just got unlucky. Travelers should be aware that weather delays do happen often in Iceland though! Thanks for reading.

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