As a German expat living in the United States, I am always looking for the most convenient and most economical way to visit my home country. About once a year, I make the trip across the Atlantic to visit family and to immerse myself into the local language and culture for a couple of weeks in order to stay ahead of the latest developments.
In previous years, I had happily taken advantage of the direct connection from Denver to Frankfurt offered by Lufthansa. There certainly is no easier or more comfortable way to travel to Europe than an overnight, non-stop flight. Alas, it’s an expensive option. So this year, I decided to try a different route.
Icelandair, a relatively new addition to the Denver airport which took to the Colorado skies in May 2012, offers one-stop flights to more than 20 European airports. Flights to Frankfurt depart Denver in the early evening and go straight to Kevlavik, Iceland, a manageable 7.5-h flight into the night. There, the layover is only 50 minutes, which, due to the small size of Kevlavik International Airport, is plenty of time despite the fact that you have to change gates and go through a passport check before boarding your connection to Germany. The flight from Iceland to Frankfurt takes another 3.5 hours, making the whole trip about 12 hours including layover time. Not much worse than the 10 hours Lufthansa takes for its direct flight, and at about half the price upon advance booking, a good deal indeed.
One of the greatest advantages of flying with Icelandair, however, is the fact that every passenger is allowed to check 2 suitcases of 50 lbs each on transatlantic flights. Most airlines these days allow only one suitcase per person, and being just a few pounds over the weight allowance can be very costly. To me, this far outweighs the minor inconvenience of having to pay for your dinner on the plane (Icelandair passengers get to choose from a small selection of fruit, salad, oatmeal, baguette and other light fare, priced between 1 and 15 Euros; non-alcoholic beverages are free). Children, however, receive a free, hot meal that includes a drink, main course and dessert. They also get free headphones, while adults have to pay for headphones if they didn’t bring their own.
The entertainment program on Icelandair flights can easily pass the time from departure until landing. Each seat has its own, touch-screen TV offering a good selection of movies ranging from new releases to older favorites, as well as TV shows, documentaries, children’s programming, information channels and radio stations. Language lovers may appreciate the rare exposure to Icelandic entertainment options. If you’d rather watch something on your tablet or smart phone, you can plug it into the provided USB port to keep it charged. As far as seating comfort in economy class goes, Icelandair isn’t the worst offender, with a fairly standard 32″ leg room (40″ in business class) and foot rests on every seat. The seats recline pretty far, which is nice if you are the person reclining, but not so nice for the person behind you.
The staff on Icelandair is friendly and helpful. Flights are rather small for transatlantic routes with 3×3 seating, which means boarding and deplaning is a relatively fast process. Overall, I was very happy with Icelandair and am certain that I will fly with them again in the future. I already signed up for their “Saga” frequent flyer program. Only next time, I might make a longer stop in Iceland and explore the island for a few days before continuing my trip to Europe.