We’ve been planning our flight to Orlando for over two years, and after a long search through all the available options, we opted for Icelandair.
Cons : Well, it was a connecting flight from Manchester to Keflavik airport in Iceland, and then onwards to Orlando. This is a route we discounted in the past due to the hop to iceland, which seems counter productive, but when compared to options we have taken in the past e.g. Air Canada via Toronto and American Trans Air (via Gander, Newfoundland – refuelling stop!) then actually flight times weren’t that bad. the long haul element were comparable with direct flights from the UK, and the flight time to Iceland is around 2 hours . We spent about 2 hours in Keflavik on the way out, and 90 minutes on the way back, – which gave about a 30 – 60 mins of actual free time in the small airport With fourteen of us including three infants, the stop over was a welcome break anyway.
Pros : The saving using Icelandair was considerable, which totally offset the extra flying time.
Although often considered a budget airline, and many of their operating practices reflect this, the actual flights don’t give that impression. Modern planes, comfortable and “spacious” seating, and a reasonably good entertainment system made for trouble free travel.
The booking process wasn’t totally straightforward, as we did this through their booking centre by phone due to the number of passengers, and their agent sometimes seemed a little confused – English language is not always their strong point – but we did eventually make the booking and settled ourselves down for the countdown to departure.
Unlike the actual airline, the website does give you with a bit of a budget airline feel during the booking process, but in fairness it is easy to navigate. It comes with some glitches. After booking our seats, we found that we could amend our seat request, and book over seats that were allocated by others – we were fairly concerned that our seating would be incorrect at check-in, and we weren’t disappointed in that respect.
Of course, the original booking didn’t happen due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and one thing I will say for the airline is that unlike many others who seemed to make refunds and flights changes difficult, Icelandair immediately created a voucher scheme if we needed to cancel, and because the UK totally locked down during our flight window, we were able to cancel and get basically a credit note for future travel up to three years. And it arrived in about 20 minutes of requesting, which we thought was excellent.
What was even more excellent was the unexpected fact that when rebooking our flights, they were actually CHEAPER than originally booked – we had worried that due to the heavy costs incurred by the airline industry in general, and the huge demand post – pandemic, that flight costs would double and we had been bracing ourselves for a huge hike in prices. But it wasn’t the case and in fact we had enough surplus to book everyone extra leg room seats.
And that’s where our trouble started.
As we neared our departure date, I wrote to their customer support regarding Sue’s mobility holdall. Now, for those who don’t know, we carry a small holdall when we go away, which holds various mobility equipment for use on resort – folding steps, grab handles etc. Its small and light, and mostly it’s carried free by the airlines. British Airways have always carried it no problem, Qatar Airways likewise, even Ryanair, although they were a little bit more work, with Doctors Certificates stating the need for the equipment being requested and a stamped and authorised certificate having to be issued by Ryanair in order to avoid excess baggage costs at check-in. Even so, it went for free.
All of these airlines explain clearly on their website what the procedures are.
Mobility equipment information is limited to electrically powered wheelchairs, and so I found myself asking their online chat agent about it. What a trial. She just didn’t seem to grasp what I was asking. Definitely a language issue. I had dimensions, weights and contents, and a copy of the doctor’s letter, but all I kept being asked was “does it need a battery” and “will it fold up flat”.
In the end she advised I called direct. So I did. And probably got the same agent because once again, the agent’s command of the English language was hopeless. Now, this seems a little obnoxious I know, complaining that someone doesn’t speak English when I don’t speak a word of Icelandic, but come on, it’s a given that if you’re selling into the UK market, it’s more or less expected that they have someone there that they could pass you on to who has a bit better vocabulary.
Anyway, in the end she advised me to submit a customer service form. In fact, I submitted three. the first got lost. The second two sat in their system for a month.
At least I now had a case number I could chase. But every time I tried to chase it, I was just told they had a huge backlog of cases. With only a week before departure, I was told they had got to questions for flights departing in two weeks time, so they were quite pleased they were catching up!
I attacked Twitter, Facebook, Customer Services, all to no avail. All the Facebook agent said each time was “please tell us the nature of your enquiry”. I did so on a number of occasions and also gave them the case number which contained all the details. But despite my efforts I got nowhere. I actually spent three hours talking to someone at one point, and still came off none the wiser.
But, unfortunately all of this was to no avail. And in the end we reluctantly decided not to take the equipment and struggle at the other end, as the potential of having to pay extra baggage costs at check-in was not acceptable and the option of disposing of the goods was likewise unpalatable. Eventually we at least managed to get the folding steps in our cases which we needed for the car we were hiring, but the rest of the essential kit had to stay behind.
After check-in I left them a message on Facebook telling them how appalling their customer service was. They then started asking me what I required and how could they help! I still couldn’t get them to understand we were now checked in and the whole thing was now academic.
I never got any reply to my “cases” but I did get a little note on facebook saying they were sorry they had let us down. Not much comfort.
Even more annoying was the seating arrangements. The number of times the seat allocations we had booked were changed was laughable. At one point, Sue was sat on her own three rows down, and Kirsty and Alun and kids ended up 10 rows behind us. We had deliberately booked everyone together as this was their honeymoon celebration, and in the end the happy couple wasn’t with the rest of their party – despite numerous complaints again to the airline, we got no response.
What really annoyed us was that they had been moved from extra room seats to standard seats and then told they would have to go through the claims process to get their money back that they had paid for extra legroom. That’s not on.
Speaking about legroom, the flights use the new style thinner seats, so legroom is reasonable anyway in standard seating, but the extra legroom seats were very comfortable. The only gripe as always is how far the seats recline, and this can be a serious imposition to comfort. It’s about time reclining seats were removed or at lest their travel restricted so it doesn’t impact on the person behind them.
We were sat on rows 8 and 9 on the 737 Max and we did note that row 7 was noticeable wider, even though they technically were all the same class. So something to note if you are booking.
Food on board was not good. A selection of meals are available to pre-order. Sue had the lasagne, which wasn’t too bad, I had the steak and noodles, which was cold and very undercooked. The cheese and ham baguette is probably the favourite once on board, but don’t expect to get pizza – on all flights, it was sold out before it got to us and we are on rows 8 – 11. You cant pre-order this.
They offer complimentary kid’s meals but don’t explain anywhere what they consist of. When it arrived for Alfie (4) it was very disappointing and didn’t feed him at all. Unfortunately pizza had already sold out and the remaining icelandic style offerings were not suitable for him.
Service on board was probably the biggest downside of the flight. I don’t know if they had separate service for Saga business class, as our flight attendants started service from the first row of economy and worked backwards. So only a couple of rows forward from us. Nevertheless it took a good 30 – 45 mins to get to us just with the drinks trolley.
A good thing to note is soft drinks are free during the flight, alcoholic drinks are chargeablea as you might expect.
My advice – buy some sandwiches and snacks for the flight, you will need them. If its only short haul between UK and Iceland, have a good meal before you set off and don’t bother with the onboard food.
Would we fly with Icelandair again? Well, essentially the flights themselves were decent, good quality affairs and we don’t really have much to complain about them.
But the customer service is atrocious. So, I would limit myself to using them ONLY if I was travelling up to Iceland, which is on the cards at some point.