IcelandAir: Great deals, not-so-great web site

IcelandAir offers some great deals to Europe - which can even include a free stopover in Iceland.

A sign on the side of a Seattle city bus caught my eye. It read: “Only 7 hours to Iceland.” That seemed far too quick, so I decided to look into it.

IcelandAir’s U.S. web site says flights from Seattle to Reykjavik are actually 7 hours, 15 minutes while return flights that fly into the jet stream take 7 hours, 45 minutes. Close enough.

However, in the process, I found the IcelandAir web site to be less user-friendly than it could be.

The first quirk frequent travelers will notice is that the web site does not automatically accept an airport’s three-letter identifier. My input of SEA, which is the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) three-letter airport code for SeaTac International, brought up another dialogue box that I had to click on confirm my choice. Other airlines’ web sites - including AA, United, U.S. Airways, and Alaska - recognize three-letter codes automatically.

The second quirk involved booking a trip with a layover.

First, a traveler intending to make a stopover in Reykjavik (KEF) on their way to or from Europe needs to click the “Stopover” radio button at the top of the page, not the “Round -trip” button. Fairly obvious.

However, clicking “Stopover” calls up two lines with “From” and “To” boxes, accompanied by calendars. Two lines. A round-trip flight with a stopover requires at least three flights, and perhaps more, so presenting only two lines subtly implies that the traveler will be asked about a stopover at some point later in the process. Because that is not how the process works, it requires backing out and starting over if the traveler realizes they're not getting what they wanted before they complete the purchase. Not a good thing.

Booking a stopover

To book a trip from SEA to London (LHR) with a stopover in KEF, a traveler will need to use the first line for the SEA to KEF segment. The second line will be for the KEF to LHR leg. Then, click the “add flight” link below the last line, which will create a third line for booking the next segment. A traveler who wants to stop in another city on the way back to their home will need to click “add flight” yet another time.

Once you’re past those minor annoyances, there are some truly good deals to be had.

Comparing a straight round-trip from SEA to LHR to a round-trip with a three-night stopover in Iceland, I found the price to be identical, just as advertised. Of course that doesn’t include the cost of accommodations, but being able to spend some time in a city you might otherwise never have visited for no additional airfare is quite appealing indeed.

In this process, I notice something else travelers ought to be aware of. When traveling from Seattle through Iceland to London, a plane change is required and the time between landing and departure is a scant 55 minutes! I don’t relish spending more time in airports than I have to, but 55 minutes is a quick turnaround for a domestic flight pair. For an international flight – WOW!

Of course, that can be overcome by arranging to spend the night in Reykjavik, see a bit of some place you might not otherwise go, and get another scar on your passport.

In the U.S., IcelandAir flies from Boston, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York (JFK), Orlando (SFB), Seattle, and Washington, DC (DCA and IAD).

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