Have you ever found such a great deal on airfare that you book it before having the chance to fully think things through? There was absolutely no way I could have resisted a $500 round trip fare from SFO to KEF on an airline I’ve been wanting to try for a very long time. I just couldn’t. It was right there in front of me, so beautifully impossible to resist, and I made the purchase without knowing (or caring for that matter) what Iceland is like in October.
Maybe it’s the coldest and snowiest month of the year, all the locals are in hibernation, and everything is shut down for the season. It didn’t matter! I was so proud of myself for snagging such a good deal on a really interesting airline that I was prepared to deal with anything. Thinking back on it, it’s kind of scary that I didn’t feel any urge at all to mumble “hold on a sec buddy…” before whipping out my credit card.
The stupidest thing about the entire situation? I wasn’t even looking for flights to Iceland at that particular moment. As a matter of fact, it was a completely spontaneous purchase that happened while I was searching for flights to visit my parents in Florida for the holidays. How I ended up with an itinerary to KEF on Icelandair instead of one to PBI on Delta still confuses the hell out of me, and I’m starting to think that my attention deficit disorder is more severe than I thought and that I need to be examined ASAP.
San Francisco, CA (SFO) – Reykjavik / Keflavik, Iceland (KEF)
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Duration: 7 hours 58 minutes
Seat: 36A (economy class)
Icelandair 767-300/ER side view illustration by norebbo.com (high resolution copies available here). All that white makes me cold just looking at it! #brrr
Seat map of this Icelandair 767-300 (courtesy of seatguru.com) showing my seat (36A) for this flight to KEF.
This trip to Iceland was one that I had been really looking forward to in the days leading up to it, and I meticulously planned everything out in my mind over and over so that everything would go as smoothly as possible and I didn’t end up missing a flight or anything. But just as luck would have it, my United Airlines flight from SAN to SFO that morning ended up being delayed by two hours and it had me feeling nervous about missing the connection to KEF altogether (which was booked on a separate ticket).
“But at least I won’t have to reclear security up at SFO” I thought, knowing that the United Airlines terminal (3) and the international terminal (G) are connected airside. “That’s going to save a ton of time!”
If only it ended up being that simple. It turned out that this flight to Reykjavik was departing from SFO’s other international terminal (A) which isn’t connected airside to any other terminal. As a matter of fact I was completely unaware that SFO had multiple international terminals, so this really put a kink in the works once I realized that I had to go stand in a really long security line to get into terminal A. The butt-pucker stress level was high enough before that realization, and I was actually starting to think that there was a possibility that I was going to miss this flight.
Icelandair baggage drop and ticket counter here at terminal A. Fun fact: I was actually in full sprint to the security checkpoint as I turned around and snapped this shot (and it took an embarrassing amount of editing in order to make it usable for this trip report).
Running through an airport while trying to take pics at the same time is not easy – as a matter fact, it was such a clumsy process that I accidentally captured two as I mashed the screen of my phone trying to find the shutter button. This is the second one, and I’m only including it because of how proud of myself I am for the fact that it turned out halfway OK.
Thankfully I made it through the security checkpoint with 25 minutes to spare, which was the perfect amount of time to scarf down half of a pastrami and Swiss sandwich as fast as I could before they started boarding. I felt really bad for throwing the other half of that $12 sandwich into the trash as I was running (once again) to the gate, but it was super stinky and I refused to be that guy who brings smelly food onto an airplane.
Smelly food on airplanes is one of my biggest pet peeves in life actually, and I still vividly remember the stench from the days-old fried chicken that someone brought onto a flight from DFW to MSY once back in the fall of 1999. After all these years, I have yet to un-smell it and I’ll be taking it to my grave with me for sure.
I even managed to get pics of the plane arriving from the maintenance hangar as I was running through the airport in panic looking for a meal that would satisfy me all the way to Iceland. There are no free meals on Icelandair, so this (eating, not panicking) was of the utmost importance!
Looks like it’s TF-ISP doing the honors today. But whatever – I needed to find a satisfying meal before they started boarding this plane.
I arrived at the gate just moments before the start of the boarding process, and I wasted no opportunity to mosey on up to the podium to see if there was a chance that there was an open window seat somewhere with an adjacent seat open next to it. It turns out that there were a lot of them actually and I had my new “anti-social” boarding pass in mere seconds.
Whew – I made it! Having enough time to be able to take pre-boarding pics like this (with everyone casually lounging around in total relaxation) made me realize how much of a drama queen I had been about missing the flight. I get worried sometimes, alright?
Does this look like a full 767–300-sized load of passengers to you? I had a sneaky suspicion that it was going to be a really light load to Reykjavik this evening, and I was half tempted to go and dig the other half of that Pastrami sandwich out of the trash.
Right away I could tell that this flight to Reykjavík was going to be lightly loaded, and they pretty much let everyone board all at once. The entire process was quick and easy, and there was no waiting during my entire jaunt to the rear end of this 767-300.
Feeling slightly bummed that the boarding passes aren’t banana yellow with Aurora Borealis accents. Maybe they didn’t want to be associated in any way, shape, or form with Spirit Airlines? In that case I totally understand it and I’m cool with the all-white design. But not even any Northern Lights graphics or something?
Jet bridges always look more dramatic when viewed through a wide angle lens. And when you’ve posted as many of these shots as I have over the years, finding ways to make them look more dramatic is very necessary if I have any hope of keeping my readers awake and alert. Does that mean 10 years from now I’ll be Photoshoping flames and lasers into these pics? If that’s what it takes…
I’ve already hypothesized why they don’t use more “banana yellow” in their branding, but I’d like to point out that my excitement levels would have been up 5 points (easily) if I was about to step into a neon yellow fuselage.
When the flight attendant at the door who is handing out bottles of water doesn’t skoff at the GoPro you have pointed at him, you know it’s gonna be a good flight.
This is the part where I was definitely NOT craving anything remotely close to “banana yellow”. The gray tones of these seats look really sharp IMHO.
I do believe I’ve found my home(s) for the next 8 hours. Seats 35A and B!
I haven’t even sat down yet and I’m already getting a friendly vibe.
Quite possibly one of the nicest 767-300 economy class interiors I’ve ever seen. I get weak in the knees for muted gray color schemes (really), and I’m proud to give this one the SANspotter stamp of approval.
Look at that leg room! It’s really easy to admire my red shoes is spacious seats such as these, so huge props to Icelandair for not going all “Air Canada Rouge” on us.
Isn’t it annoying when you can’t see the first part of a string of clever text, and what you can see doesn’t make any sense at all? The Icleandair marketing team surely spent hours on this, so its unfortunate that this happened.
Why was I not expecting video screens? Not only do these Icelandair 767s have them, they are massive! Never in my life had I had a craving to watch an Icelandic movie before this. Is there even a film industry in Iceland?
That’s what I’m talkin’ about. USB ports at every seat, and since I was all alone back here today, I had two of them all to myself. I wanna say it’s like every tech nerd’s wildest fantasy, but tech nerd fantasies are usually spicy (and 2 USB ports just ain’t gonna do it).
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the water from Iceland tastes just the same as from anywhere else on the the planet (except maybe from Gary, IN)
I already knew that the seat next to me was going to be vacant, but what I didn’t know was that the entire back half of the airplane was wide open and I essentially could’ve sat anywhere I wanted without a problem. As a matter of fact, the gate agent gave me seat 35A, but there was somebody sitting directly in front of me in 34A, so I moved back one row to 36 so as not to be disturbed by a seat reclining into my lap at any point during the flight.
Whoa. Being able to walk onto a 767 and pick any seat I wanted was a very nice feeling indeed. Looks like I’ve got some competition though, and she’s determined to pick the best one before anyone else.
It’s all good though – I’m quite comfy here in 36A!
Once the boarding door was closed and we were all settled in, I was feeling pretty good about my situation and I didn’t have any problems at all with being in the economy class cabin tonight. I don’t mind flying economy class at all if I’ve got room to stretch out like this, so I knew that this was going to be a really good flight and I was already having tons of fun even before we pushed off the gate.
I meant to reach for the safety card, but pulled out the menu instead. I considered it to be a happy accident until I saw the prices they wanted for some of this stuff. Yikes!
Thank God there wasn’t any prices on the safety card. I’d hate to have to pay for the privilege to exit the plane after crashing into an iceberg in the North Atlantic.
I realize that I’ve already beaten to death the point that this was a very lightly loaded aircraft, but here’s the final tally once the boarding door was closed. Really bad for Icelandair, but tons of fun for SANspotter.
What’s that? My upgrade to first class has cleared? Nah, I’m perfectly happy back here in 36A I think. Thanks anyway!
If I see Northern Lights this vivid and bright on the way up to KEF tonight, I’ll die a happy man (hopefully not tonight though).
Oops – I’ve been so distracted by the fact that it’s such an empty flight that I didn’t realize that we were just moments from departure. I actually have nightmares about forgetting to take pics and video of the key stages of flight, so I hope you understand how traumatic it would hav even not to include a pic like this!
Speaking of missing pics of key stages of flight, here we are (all of a sudden) in the air over San Francisco Bay. Those of you dying to watch the full takeoff roll can do so in my video…
Oakland at 10 o’clock.
Now that I’ve upgraded from my old iPhone 6S to a shiny new XS, I’ll be able to take advantage of the dual cameras and zoom in on really interesting things that I see during my travels. Like Oakland, CA for example.
This is me in 40 years when takeoffs don’t interest me anymore.
I’m not afraid to admit that I knew very little about Icelandair before this flight, and even as we were climbing out of SFO I was still under the assumption that they are a low-cost carrier. It wasn’t until I returned home a few days later that I learned that it isn’t the case, but it sure seemed like it at the time due to the fact that there were no hot towels, menus, or amenity kits distributed after takeoff.
Indulging in tech nerd USB fantasies immediately after takeoff. Why does plugging a phone into a USB outlet feel so dang satisfying?
“Oooh, look, and he even captured his reflection in the screen too!”
What’s this? Pics of the lavatory so early in the flight? Well, when you’ve got the entire rear section of the aircraft all to yourself, it’s fun to get up and go whenever you want.
We’ve only been in the air 15 minutes and there’s already toilet paper on the floor. It wasn’t me!
Did I mention how empty this flight was? Here’s another pic on my way back from the lav to show you what I mean.
Let’s all take a brief moment to remember our forefathers who had no choice but to traverse that kind of terrain on horseback during their journeys west (or east if they hated California and couldn’t wait to get the hell out).
You can’t see it in this pic, but the food cart is a comin’ – so get ready to eat!
Something else that made Icelandair feel very much like a low-cost carrier is the fact that they don’t give you a free meal. Other than complementary beverages, everything comes at a cost, and if you want to eat you’re gonna have to pay a mighty sum for it. I ended up choosing the Spanish-style Tapas box, which was really good though quite on the small side (and it didn’t even begin to fill me up). It was right about then that I began to have second thoughts about that Pastrami sandwich thing…
Well, here we go. One Spanish Style Tapas “snack” box, to be washed down by a complimentary cup of apple juice. How much you wanna bet that nobody has ever walked into a Tapas bar in Spain and ordered an apple juice to go with their food? I’d reckon you would get thrown out of any bar in Spain for doing something as silly as that.
The contents of the snack box, with the focal point easily being the testicle-looking things in the center of the pic. Why is it that it’s the most disgusting things that taste the best?
My movie of choice during the meal service was “Breakfast Club”, which is significant only because I have never seen it before and I figured that now would be the perfect opportunity. I’ve seen lots of clips of it over the years, but I never saw it in its entirety up until this point. Is that embarrassing to admit out loud?
There were 5 hours and 16 minutes of flying time remaining after the movie had ended, and by that time some of the sleepy people from the front of the plane were slowly starting to come back here to the rear section to claim entire rows to themselves. After an hour or so, nearly every row was occupied with sleeping passengers.
Maybe he ate the mystery meat as well, and is trying to hide in shame? Either that or he’s just tired and wants to stretch out a bit.
Did I tell you guys how empty this flight was? Here’s a pic to prove it! (Sorry, I’ll put that joke to rest now I promise).
Ok, since nobody else is asking the question, I will: is “Regina” the most hilariously unfortunate town name ever? I mean, who was it that actually thought that it was a good idea?
Female anatomy on my mind as I snap more pics for the trip report. When I get home I’m totally going to book a trip to Regina to see the place for myself. Knowing how life has gone for me thus far though, it’s not likely they’ll let me in.
Checking the map a short while later to see if, just maybe, we were flying over a town called “Benis” (or even “Kock”). Even if we were, Regina sounds like a much nicer place to visit.
Somewhere in the darkness over northeastern Canada, the flight attendants came through the aisles with duty-free and Flybus tickets for easy transfers into Reykjavík. I ended up purchasing one of those bus tickets, though it was completely unnecessary to do it on the plane since it would’ve been just as easy and convenient to do it at the airport after I arrived. The worst part about it is that I probably paid a little bit extra for the privilege of doing it on the plane. Oh well – lesson learned.
A completely staged pic of myself sleeping. “Ooh, it’ll be good for the trip report” I thought. Truth is, there was very little sleep happening at all.
Sleeping wasn’t very easy on this flight, and that wasn’t because I was trying to do it in a tight economy class seat. No, my eyes were glued to the window the entire time in hopes of capturing a glimpse of the northern lights dancing in the skies on our way over the Canadian north. I’ve never seen them in person, but I’ve been told that they start becoming visible in the month of October so I was really getting my hopes up for the chance to see them for the very first time. And I did! Well, sort of. It was very faint (and not colorful at all) but I did see wispy white Northern Lights just about two hours east of Iceland. It was so faint as a matter of fact that I couldn’t even get a picture of it. But it happened, I swear!
See? I’m not even going to tell you how empty the flight was. I would like to mention that mood lighting mimicking the Northern Lights sure would be nice on these planes though. Just an idea.
The second and final cabin service started with 1 hour and 50 minutes to go, and my grumbly stomach had me really tempted to purchase something off the menu. However, knowing that we were so close to Reykjavik, I decided to hold off a bit in order to save money. Food is very expensive on Icelandair!
Just as I was starting to get sleepy too! We’re almost there now with KEF just ahead.
Unfortunately, our very early (6am) arrival into KEF meant that it was completely dark outside and there was absolutely no scenery to admire on the way in. From what I could tell though, it didn’t look like I missed all that much because we came right in off the water – the airport perimeter is right there on the water’s edge, so there really wasn’t much to see other than twinkling lights off in the distance.
Expectation: majestic snow capped mountain peaks and neon colored lights dancing in the sky. Reality: Nothing. At all.
All my life I’ve dreamt of the mind-altering views to absorb when arriving in Iceland after a long transatlantic flight, and…well…this wasn’t what I was expecting.
It seems as if everyone else is disappointed that they didn’t see any Icelandic reindeer frolicking in the snow either.
It’s 6am, 35 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and raining. I can’t check into my hotel until 3pm, so…I guess I’m gonna hang out here at KEF for the morning and get some work done. It sounded like a really good plan until I realized that the restaurants won’t serve anyone without a boarding pass for a departing flight (yes, it’s horrifically true). Welcome to KEF!
In conclusion, I think the best way to sum up my first ever experience on Icelandair is to say that it was a pleasant surprise. The service was good, the seats were decently comfy with tons of legroom, and I didn’t have any issues at all during the entire journey (other than eating things that looked like testicles). However, I do know that having an adjacent seat next to me with tons of room to spread out in every direction might have skewed my opinion to the overly positive side (just a little). Therefore, I know that it’s unwise to make a final conclusion about this airline until I had the chance to fly them back to SFO on what was scheduled to be a very full flight. Stay tuned for that one – it’s gonna be good, and not just because it’ll be another trip report from SANspotter featuring testicle-looking mystery-meat.