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Flying with Icelandair, economy and business class compared

It finally happened. I went to Iceland and naturally flew Icelandair. It was the best flight available in terms of timing, availability, and price. The departure flight is overnight, making it a quick redeye. In the winter that means that you arrive well before sunrise which does give you some time to nap if you secure the room for an extra night (recommended). All in all, it was a good experience, but let’s break it down into a few key categories. 

Things to Know Before You Fly

Classes of Service

The types of fares offered are fairly standard, from Economy Light (no changes, no bags, etc) to Saga Premium Flex (all services and priorities included). I try not to book Light with any airline unless there is zero chance of me needing to change the flight. Iceland is a volcanic island so some need for changes felt important. See the complete breakdown of different fares on the airline website

Luggage Inclusions & Fees

One carry-on and a personal item are included for all fares. The size of the carry-on (including wheels) is 21.6×15.7×7.8 inches (55x40x20 cm) at 10kg max weight, which is fairly standard. The personal item can be up to 15.7×11.8×5.9 inches (40x30x15cm).  They seem to be quite strict on carry-on sizing and did check the size of almost everyone’s bag at the gate. Economy Light has no checked bag inclusions so if you need one it would be about $58 (in Canada/USA) but double-check in case things change. Standard and Flex include one (23kg) checked bag and Premium/Flex includes two (32kg) checked bags. See the full breakdown here

Cabin Upgrades 

Unlike many airlines, Icelandair did not offer me an option to upgrade to business class (Saga Premium) during check-in. You can try to upgrade over the phone but it must be done before you complete online check-in. You can also upgrade at the kiosk but that will be, full price. So the best option to upgrade your experience if you feel the need is by bidding on it. Class Up allows you to bid a dollar amount on an upgrade any time before your flight. For my flight (Toronto – Reykjavík) the minimum bid was a bit over $300 while at the kiosk it was a bit over $600 so there is quite a difference. 

On return, I had a lot of time to kill at the airport and was traveling back in time and I knew I would need something to eat and drink. I bid for an upgrade (minimum allowed) the night before and was notified in the morning that the upgrade was approved. 

Airport Experience

On the Canadian side, this is fairly standard, flying this late in the day I breezed through every line but if you want that extra boost Saga Premium includes fast track through security. Reykjavík airport is quite small and the check-in counter/bag drop opens about three hours before the flight. Icelandair does general boarding, which means it is a free-for-all once the families and Premium ticket holders are aboard. They were quite efficient though and hustled well to make sure the delays were minimal. 

Note: The airline is not a member of any major loyalty programs and has its own Saga Club

Flying Economy with Icelandair 

Seating & Comfort

I was a bit nervous flying economy overnight and tried to find pictures that represented the space well but failed to do so.  Upon boarding, I was happy to see that the seats were spacious with a healthy amount of legroom. I’m 5.4 and had good space to stretch. The seats are a bit narrow but not having my knees push against the pocket was a huge win. On the seats were a pillow and a blanket so no need to pack your own. 

Meals O-Board

There is a standard beverage service but there are no meals included in the economy fare. You can purchase a few items aboard but the menu is quite limited. If you know you might need dinner you can preorder some more hearty and traditional meals online beforehand. Pre-purchases must be done at least 24 hours before departure and can be done on your booking page. 

Flying business class with Icelandair 

Seating & Boarding 

First of all, no these are not flatlay seats but they are much roomier and more comfortable than economy. Saga Premium is first to board and first to deplane. I had a pretty smooth ride with a great window view of the city and mountains. In addition to the blanket and pillow, there was an amenity kit with all the basics and some postcards from a local artist in the bag. 

Meals On-Board

I’ll start with, it was a bit of a feast. Upon boarding, I was handed a sparkling wine (or juice) and a trio of macarons. The beverage selection is quite impressive with some great wines (including champagne), choice spirits, and a few cocktails like an espresso martini. Espresso martini in-flight! The most unique part is what comes after: an entire two pages of gin! You taste one or all six different gins (all but one are Icelandic) on their own or mixed with artisanal soda. For this route, the dinner included bread with whipped butter and Icelandic sea salt and Caesar salad as a starter. For the main, there was a choice of lamb shank with potatoes or salmon three ways with blini. The meal ended with a caramel-chocolate mouse and a full tummy. 

Saga Lounge, Reykjavík 

Located on the upper floor this is a spacious modern lounge overlooking the airport in the direction of the city. The space is divided into a few different seating areas from high tables to lounge chairs and scenic comfort seats. There is even a fireplace. The food service had the standard salad bar, a great selection of cheeses (DIY charcuterie? Don’t mind if I do), a few hot plates and soups, plus baked goods and desserts. The bar was a bit overwhelming (in a good way of course). Plenty of local gins and other spirits, domestic and imported beers, quite a few fun wines, and artisanal sodas. I almost wished I had more time to try all the different food and drinks. 

* * *

Icelandair is certified as a 3-Star Airline, which according to Skytrax, an International air transport rating organization, means that the “service standards or product standards are fair or average”. I am not sure how exactly this rating was made but in my experience, this was a smooth flight, service was good, and cabin temperature was not a hustle. I felt a little warm at first but as time passed, the temperature evened out. The only thing I see them losing points for is in-flight meal service, or lack thereof, in economy. However overall, I found Icelandair a good airline to fly with and the best way to fly between Canada and Iceland. 

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments. 

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  1. Nice review! It is less likely to see airline reviews as a blog post. It is quite helpful.

  2. The food and the lounge area look amazing. Thank you for the detailed review. This was helpful!

  3. This is so helpful! The lounge there looks really nice!

  4. I am flying Icelandic in September so I will definitely bid on Saga business class at $300!

    1. I hope you get it :D!

  5. You answered a few of my questions that’s for sure, looking forward to checking out that lounge!

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