Thanks to it’s wonderful scenery, Iceland is now firmly on many people’s holiday bucket list. Before you can turn your Icelandic dream into a reality, you first have to figure out how to get the best deal on your flights to Iceland. There’s a huge range of possibilities, so choosing the best one for your needs and importantly, your budget can be a total nightmare. Thankfully, I’m here to help you understand the main airline choices for your flights to Iceland. Whether you are coming from the US, Europe or beyond, I’m here to help. There;s quite a difference between the all the various airlines who carry out flights to Iceland. With both full service and low cost options things can be very confusing. Finding the perfect balance between price and things like baggage allowance is never easy. Thankfully, this post was written to help solve all your different questions and to offer some great tips to help you get the best price you can. So, let’s get started.
Unless you are planning to fly via Greenland or the Faroe Islands then any flights to Iceland will arrive at Keflavik Airport. The airport lies around 50 km (30 miles) to the South West of the capital city of Reykjavik. Originally, the airport was a military airfield from the Second World War. As commercial aviation developed, it served as an important staging post across the Atlantic. The current terminal is named after the explorer Leif Erikson. It opened in 1987 and has seen a huge increase in the number of passengers over recent years. Currently you can get flights to Iceland from 93 destinations that are operated by over 30 airlines. The number of flight options are continually changing so check out the full, up to date list at the Keflavik airport website.
The Two Icelandic Airlines and the Joy of the Stopover
If you are looking for flights to Iceland then your first thought should be one of the Icelandic airlines. This is especially true if you are coming from (or indeed going to) the United States. This is thanks to the wonderful creation of the stopover flight ticket. Iceland currently has two main international airlines. There is the long time established national airline, Icelandair and a newer low-cost airline called Wow. Both Icelandair and Wow operate a free Stopover concept. This means that you can fly from the US to Europe with a free stopover in Iceland. It’s a great way to combine a trip to Iceland as part of a bigger trip to other places. Of course there are a million reasons to just visit Iceland without a stopover as well.
Icelandair – The National Airline
Icelandair traces its history back to the 1930s and the beginning of commercial aviation in Iceland. It has been officially called Icelandair since the merger of the airlines Flugfélag and Loftleiðir in 1979. The company has its main hub at Keflavik Airport. This where the vast majority of international flights to Iceland take-off and land. Icelandair is also the parent company of Air Iceland Connect. This is a regional airline that mostly flies domestic routes but also serves a number of place in Greenland. The company’s fleet consists of over 30 aircraft – most of which are Boeing 757-200 aircraft. They also fly a small number of Boeing 767s and they have a growing fleet of Beoing 737 Max aircraft as well.
Icelandair Cabin Classes and Other Useful Info
I’m a member of a few Iceland travel forums and see lots of questions about flights to Iceland. Specifically, many people ask about the different services and cabin classess on Icelandair’s flights to Iceland. The airline is a full service airline that operates a two class service in terms of the cabin areas. These are Saga Premium (Business Class) and Economy. In each of these two classes you can then either opt for Flex Tickets or standard non-refundable. Within the Saga service you are allowed 2 checked bags (up to 70 lbs each). You also get 1 carry-on bag (22 lbs) and a small personal item as well. The seats are not the lie-flat seats you get with some airlines in Business Class. However, they are large and comfortable enough for the length of most of Icelandair’s flights to Iceland.
Within the Economy Cabin, there are then two levels of service – standard Economy and Economy Light. In standard Economy you can take 1 checked bag and one economy bag, the Light service removes the checked bag and free non-alcoholic drinks. Icelandair has full in-flight entertainment with seatback screens on all flights. However in terms of service, you do have to purchase alcoholic drinks, meals and Wifi.
Wow – The New Low Cost Airline
The other big Icelandic airline offering flights to Iceland is Wow Air. It’s the new kid on the block and follows the low cost airline model. This means that you pay for a basic flight and pretty much everything else is extra. There’s also no in-flight entertaintment. Wow Air started operations in May 2012 and then in October that year took over the operations of another low-cost airline called Iceland Express. After a period of fairly rapid growth, Wow has built up a fleet of 20 aircraft. All but 3 of these are from the Airbus A320 family (A320 and A321s plus their Neo variants). The remaining aircraft in the fleet are larger Airbus A330-200s and there are more A330-900 Neos on order to extend the fleet further.
WOW Cabin Classes and Info on Their Flights to Iceland
As you might expect from an airline that advertises itself as a low cost airline the cabin is effectively a single economy cabin. There are different ticket options in terms of services, which you then match with differing amounts of legroom. The first ticket option is Wow Basic, just a seat and one small piece of hand luggage – not a full size case though only just a racksack sort of size. Next level is Wow Plus that adds a full size carry out (in addition to the smaller one in Basic), 1 checked bag and the chance to choose a standard seat beforehand. This is followed with Wow Comfy with cancellation protection and the choise of XL legroom seat (32″ – 33″) or XXL legroom seat (pitch: 35″+). Finally there is Wow Premium that includes the Big Seat, priority check-in at Keflavik, fast track security (at selected airports), priority boarding and an in-flight meal.
Which Other Airlines Fly to Iceland?
Aside from the Icelandic Airlines there lots of other airlines that have flights to Iceland, depending on where you’re coming from. As I will explain in more detail in the “How to Bag the Best Prices” section of this post in a minute, you can often think outside the box a little to get to Iceland. For example, rather than just do a direct flight you might get a better deal by flying to another place in Europe and then onto Iceland from there. Perhaps from the US you could fly to London and then flights to Iceland from there. You could fly British Airways to London, stay there and then use the low-cost airline Easyjet for your flights to Iceland. British Airways have some amazing seat sales that might provide a full service, long haul flight and then you can get a cheaper, low-cost Easyjet flight. There are lots of other examples but almost anything is possible if you think outside the box a little.
Flights to Iceland from the USA and Canada
If you want flights to Iceland from the USA the most obvious choices are the two Icelandic Airlines that I described earlier. Both Icelandair and Wow fly to a huge number of cities across the USA and a few in Canada as well. But there are some other options that might be particularly attractive if you have an affiliated credit card or collect air miles from a specific US airline. The main choices for flights to Iceland are with American from Dallas, Delta from New York JFK and United from Newark. Of course, if you are prepared to take an internal flight inside the US then any of these make a good option. If you are looking for flights to Iceland from Canada then the best option is with Air Canada from Montreal and Toronto.
Flights to Iceland from Europe – Other Airlines
If you want to find flights to Iceland from Europe then of course the two Icelandic airlines are defintely worth checking out. In terms of other airlines, many of the national flag carriers have flights to Iceland. These include British Airways (London City and Heathrow), Finnair (Helsinki), Lufthansa (Frankfurt) and SAS (Copenhagen and Oslo). There are also various low-cost airlines that have flights to Iceland. Hungarian airline Wizz have the most destinations – their flights to Iceland fly from Budapest, Gdansk, Katowice, Luton, Poznan, Riga, Vienna, Vilnius, Warsaw and Wroclaw. Easyjet have flights to Iceland from 9 destinations. These are Basel, Belfast, Bristol, Edinburgh, Geneva, London Luton, London Gatwick, London Stansted and Manchester. While Norweigian have 4 destinations (Alicante, Barcelona, Gatwick and Madrid). FInally, UK-based airline Jet2 fly from Leeds Bradford to Iceland.
How to Bag the Best Prices
The rest of the post will have loads of practical information about the different routes for flights to Iceland but that’s not really why you came to this post – right! What you really want to know is how to bag the best prices when booking flights to Iceland. I’ve worked in aviation for over 20 years and I have learnt a few good tips on how to get the best deal for you. Some are pretty obvious, but some might be a little out of left field – hopefully the info that follows will really help you.
1. Sign Up For Airline Sale Notifications – You Can Save Big Money
One of the best ways to save money on flights is to book when your preferred airline has a sale on. Many airlines have sales in January because business is slow as many people save money after Christmas. This is a great time to bag a bargain. One year we managed to get 4 return flights to the West Coast of the USA from Germany at half price in the British Airways January sale. The whole cost was over 5,000 Euros before Christmas and in the end we paid barely 2,500 Euros. The lesson is, find out when the airlines you want have their sales and book then. The best way to do this is to sign up for email updates from the airlines you want. Then actually read their emails occasionally rather than just deleting them. I do this too oftern and miss some great deals.
2. When You Book Can Really Matter (Tuesdays are Normally Best)
Getting the best price often depends on when you make the booking. Most airlines have a set number of seats at different prices. This means that in theory the earlier you book, the better your chance of getting the cheapest seat on the aeroplanes. Look ahaed to see when the different airlines release their routes for each season – call the sales hotline and ask them. In terms of day of the week, Monday is normally the slowest sales day and often airline sales start on a Tuesday. This means the early part of the week (Monday and Tuesday) be the best time to book. Statistically in the US, the sweet spot is at 13.00 EST on a Tuesday. On the flip side – Thursdays and then weekends are the worst time to book.
3. Think About When To Fly? (Avoid Weekends and Holidays If You Can)
You can always get better prices if you can be flexible with the your travel dates. Flight prices are normally a function of supply and demand. If you are prepared to fly in the middle of the week when less people want to travel you have a better chance of a good deal. It’s mostly the case that weekends are the most expensive time to travel. Likewise, more people often want to travel during school holidays and major vacation times like Easter and Christmas. If you can avoid these then you increase your chance of a good deal.
By way of example, many of Wow’s flights from the USA are chepaer if you leave the USA on a Sunday, Monday or Wednesday. Likewise, These general rules don’t always apply so check major booking sites (Skyscanner, Kayak etc) as well as the airline’s website to check out the best time to take your flights to Iceland.
4. You Might Have School Holidays But Other Countries Might Not Have
School holidays are normally the most expensive time to take flights to Iceland. Mostly because that’s when more people want to travel so prices are higher due to the increased demand. However, just because you have school holidays where you live, that doesn’t mean the dates are the same in every country. This means that you might get a cheaper flight by using an airline from a country not having school holidays. You might have to take a connecting flight but you can save big time.
For example, we recently took a trip to Hong Kong from our home in Germany. The German school holidays made direct flights quite expensive. However, there were no holidays in the UK so we managed to fly from Dusseldorf to Heathrow and from there to Hong Kong for less than 2000 Euros for 4 people. This was more than 50% of the fare with German airlines, even with connecting flights through Munich or Frankfrut. For our last flights to Iceland we saved a few hundred Euros by going before the Scottish school holidays and flying from Cologne to Edinburgh and onwards to Iceland with Easyjet.
5. Consider Flying From a Different Airport
Depending on where you live you can often save quite a lot of money by being more flexible about your departure airport. It might be that you have various choices in terms of where you fly from, so make sure that you check them all to get the best deal. Sometimes you can save by choosing a less obvious departure airport where there is less demand. Other times you can save money by choosing a main hub airport with a higher frequency of flights than your smaller, local airport.
A good example of this in terms of flights to Iceland are some firends of mine whose parents live in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My friends lived for a long time near Detriot so they are used to flying overseas from Detriot. Looking at a selection of Wow Flights 6 months ahead, the flights from Detriot (1 week trip – Wow Plus with a bag etc) cost US$452 per person. For the sake of an extra 20 minutes drive to Chicago O-Hare, flights on the same dates are US$60 cheaper. A nice little saving for very little effort.
6. Don’t Always Fly Direct – Use the Same Airline If You Have a Tight Layover
If you are lucky enough to live near a large airport with lots of flights to Iceland then you probably have lots of well priced direct flight options. This is especially true if you live near somewhere Wow or Icelandair fly from. However, if you live near a smaller airport with only a few direct flights to Iceland prices for direct flights might increase quickly. In this case you might get a better deal by not flying direct.
For example, if you live in Los Angeles, there are only 4 Wow Flights to Iceland each week and prices might increase more quickly. You might be easier flying to Chicago first and then taking a connecting flight from there. You could also fly to London Heathrow with British Airways (buying a cheaper ticket in their January seat sale) and from there onto Iceland. Plus if you like a bit of luxury, that length of flight is a lot nicer with a full service airline like British Airways. One key point though – if you have a short layover then never use different airlines. If your first flight is delayed the second airline have no obligation to rebook you if you miss your flight. When you use the same airline for both flights they will normally rebook you, assuming you used a full service airline not low cost.
7. Consider a Stop Over and Visit Somewhere Else on the Same Trip
The next tip is to consider breaking up your trip in another country. You get the double bonus of adding another country to your holiday as well as the chance for a great deal on your flights to Iceland. So where do you want to go? Well the natural choices of course are the various countries that are reasonably near to Iceland. The places that are easy to combine with a trip to Iceland are to take in Dublin (Ireland), Edinburgh or London (UK), Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Oslo (Norway). With the chance of a few days layover it’s fairly safe to use different airlines as well. This means that you could take the chance to use one of the low-cost European airlines like Easyjet on the final leg to Iceland.
Again, our last summer from Cologne is a good example of this. We flew to Edinburgh for a few days with Eurowings and then took our flights to Iceland with Easyjet from there. In this case we saved over 400 Euros compared to the direct flight. It might even work well from the US and it’s definetly a great option if you are coming further afield from the Middle East, Far East or Australia.
8. Check Multiple Sites and Set Up Price Alerts
The world of the internet has made it a whole lot easier to find a great deal on flights to Iceland. While it’s hard to beat the prices on the airlines’ own website, you can’t use these to compare with other airlines and investigate the many different options I laid out in this post. By using a range of different sites like Skyscanner, Kayak or Expedia you can check out all the different options from all the different airlines at the same time. These sites enable you to compare different dates at the same time to help guarantee you the best deal.
One of the features that I love about most of these flight websites is the “Fly from Nearby Airports” feature. This means that you can extend your search to other airports in your local area. This further maximises your chances of bagging the best possible price for your flights to Iceland. One feature I discovered fairly recently is the ability to set a price alert on a particular route. The website will then email you with updates so you can see if prices are going up or down. It’s a great feature that really saves a lot of hassle.
Be Realistic – All Airlines Are Not The Same (Which is a Good Thing)
Iceland is a great place to visit and there are loads of different options when it comes to finding flights. But bear in mind that big price differences come with very different levels of service. You can get a cheaper flight with a low cost airline like Wow because you get a different flight experience than flying with a full service airline like Icelandair. Be prepared for the differences, take it for what it is and you’ll enjoy your holiday so much more. Baggage limits are there for a reason, flexibility on low-cost airlines is not their thing. All airlines are not the same. Without these differences none of us would have the great choice we do in today’s modern world.
Finally – No One Compromises on Safety
One final thought before I finish this post – a word on Safety. My day job is in this field of work and I often see many people thinking that a low cost airline means a lower level of safety. I’m hear to re-assure you that all the airlines that have flights to Iceland have to meet very rigerous regulatory standards when it comes to safety. All of the different airlines, whether European or American are exceptionally safe to fly on. Have a good flight and a wonderful trip to the wonderful country of Iceland.