Posted by: neilh10 | February 6, 2011

Getting to Iceland: Icelandair or Iceland express?

One of the questions that people ask regarding Iceland is how do they get there, and which airline should they fly. This is my attempt at answering this question.

There are two airlines that fly to Iceland from the UK. Icelandair are the established operator, flying twice daily from London Heathrow, and once daily from Manchester and Glasgow. Their only competition comes from Iceland express, who are a budget airline who fly one or two times a day from London Gatwick and Stansted. They have also just introduced occasional flights from Dublin and Edinburgh. In either case, you will arrive in to Keflavik International Airport, a very modern and efficient terminal that can operate in all weather conditions. A good way to start your holiday, after the invariable chaos of british airports.

In terms of price, there is little difference between the two airlines. But if you wait until the last minute though, Iceland express are often cheaper. Iceland express very occasionally have special offers, which reduce the cost of flying to Iceland to as little as £69 each way. But, generally speaking, you should expect to pay around £180 – £200 return, on either airline. If the fares quoted seem too expensive, wait for a bit, and check back again. You should never have to pay significantly more than £200, or £250 in the summer.

In terms of service, Icelandair are way ahead of Iceland express. There are more comfortable seats, with good legroom, and excellent facillities at the airport. They have a very good in flight entertainment system (check out the modern icelandic music channel!) and serve free drinks. The Icelandair flights are nearly always full. Iceland express on the other hand have quite cramped seats, and quite basic but friendly service. Iceland express also have a reputation for poor reliability, with flights often delayed, or rescheduled at the last minute. Personally, I think these criticisms are harsh, as the airline is far far better than someone like ryanair – Iceland Express do care about their passengers, and help you out when things go wrong. But there is certainly room for improvement to the way they operate.

There are however some good reasons to fly Iceland express. Their tickets are a lot more flexible, you can change them right up to a few hours before departure. They also have more flexibility about luggage, and you can take extra bags and sports equipment without running up big bills. Another advantage of Iceland express is that they have a 10.50am daily flight from Gatwick which (assuming nothing goes wrong), arrives in time to connect with the domestic flight to Isafjordur, meaning you can get to Flateyri from London in a day.

Overall, these factors aside, there is little between the two operators. I use both quite happily. The price can seem expensive, but at the end of the day Iceland is a long way from the UK, and it looks unlikely that easy jet or ryanair will start flying there any time soon. It is good that there is some competition on the route, and the price is set at a level that makes Iceland accessible for tourists, so I guess the best thing to do is just scan the internet and try and find the best price!

Update 12/02

I’ve just learnt that Iceland Express won’t be flying from Dublin this year after all. Seems that if you want to get to Iceland from Ireland, you would need to connect in the UK. Also, you need to give them seven days notice if you want to change your ticket – not as useful as it could be.

Update 20 Nov, 2011

Easy Jet
now provide some competition on the route. Starting March 2012, they will fly from London Luton to Keflavik x3 times a week. Flights depart at around 6am, returning from Kef at circa 10am. Prices started at £60 return when the route was first announced, but appear to have settled now at about £120 return (including credit card fee but no baggage).

Update 23/11/2011

And now there is yet another competitor on the route: Wow Air, who are flying three times a week from London Stansted, from June to September. Price starts at £100 each way.

Interested in visiting Iceland? Want to get away from the regular tourist stampede and visit one of the remotest corners of the Island, recently voted #5 on the lonely planets list of top up and coming global travel destinations for 2011? Why not check out myApartment? Click HERE.

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Responses

  1. Iceland express won’t be flying from Dublin this year – it seems they announced it back in November and then recently cancelled all the flights.

  2. Thanks for the heads up – I just checked the Iceland express website, and its true. I suspect they didn’t sell any tickets.

  3. […] earlier post Getting to Iceland:Icelandair or Iceland Express? focussed on how to get to Iceland. This post considers in detail how to get to Flateyri, once you […]

  4. We booked with Iceland Express 2 years ago to fly to Akureyri.
    2 months before departure they cancelled our flights, offering instead to dump us 300 miles away at KEF. Their staff simply didnt care and were not prepared to help at all with onward connections etc inspite of the obvious inconvience. My letter of complaint remains unanswered to this day.
    I would add that we have flown with them before and had no problems but I am not sure I can recommend them in the circumstances

    • Tony, thanks for commenting. I think it would be massively inconvenient if you have booked accommodation etc around flights which are then cancelled or wildly amended, as happened to you. I note that discover the world, the biggest tour operator to Iceland, also recommend against flying on Iceland Express.

      Personally, I still recommend Iceland Express. I think that most flights go more or less to plan, I’ve flown with them on numerous occasions and the only thing that has ever gone wrong for me is the flight has been delayed by a couple of hours. Clearly, however, when things do go wrong they fail dramatically in the customer services department, which is reflected in all the negative reviews.

      Neil

  5. My parents flew with this airline, and they actually didn’t mind the lack of ”luxuries”. Actually, my dad claims to have been able to lie across 3 seats and sleep the entire flight! No one bothered him to ask which meal he needed, since none were provided. This was Copenhagen-Boston, round trip. Besides some minor delays, there was nothing at all wrong with flying with them. Remember, if you cut costs, you can’t expect things to run 100% perfectly. Safety shouldn’t be any concern, I think federal regulations assure that. You can read my whole review here : http://ahealthconcept.com/iceland-express-review/


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