FRIDAY FRUMP: Icelandair ad strains credulity

Don’t you just hate it – or maybe you love it – when you catch an advertiser stretching the truth? I love it! And I particularly love calling them out for it.

I’ve called out Southwest Airlines for its unsupportable claim that, “We invented low fares,” and Alaska Airlines for attempting to spin its decision to implement a nickel-and-dime charge into a move that “makes the travel experience better.”

This Friday, The Frump has set his sights on Icelandair.

While I have not yet flown Icelandair and therefore do not have first-person information, the data I have obtained from reputable sources seems to show that the claim in the carrier’s latest ad, which popped up while I was surfing the web, is dubious at best.

As you can see below, the ad reads, “More legroom when you fly Icelandair to Europe.” Of course, as grammarians and others who love the language will see immediately, that is an incomplete thought because it does not specify more legroom than whom.

Screen capture of Icelandair ad
According to, Icelandair operates Boeing (NYSE:BA) 757 and 767 aircraft in a total of four configurations. The pitch in the wide-body 767’s economy section is 32 inches in standard Economy while Economy Comfort offers one additional inch, at 33 inches. Pitch is the distance from the back of one seat to the back of the next and is generally used as an indication of the amount of legroom available.

The three configurations of the carrier’s narrow-body 757s all have Economy seats that offer 32 inches of pitch and Economy Comfort seats that have 33 inches of pitch.

By comparison American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL), which also flies to Europe, operates 767s and 757s in “international” configuration have 31 inches of pitch in Economy but between 35 and 37 inches of pitch in its Main Cabin Extra area.

Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) and United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) also serve Europe. Delta has 767s in six configurations with standard Economy seats offering 31 to 32 inches of pitch and Delta Comfort+ seats providing 34 or 35 inches of pitch. Delta also operates 757s in six configurations. Pitch is 30 to 33 inches in standard economy and 34 to 35 inches in Delta Comfort+.

United operates three configurations of 767 and four of the 757 aircraft. Standard Economy pitch is 31 inches while Economy Plus pitch ranges from 34 to 35. United’s 757 aircraft have standard economy seats with 31 inches of pitch and Economy Plus seats with 34 to 37 inches of pitch.

When traveling overseas, I prefer to fly overseas carriers, both because of their generally superior experience and because flying European carriers provides passengers with additional protections under E.U. laws.

British Airways operates four versions of the 767 but the one version designated “Worldwide” has standard economy seats with 31 inches of pitch; however, World Traveller Plus seats have 38 inches of pitch.

In a nutshell

 Icelandair   American DeltaUnited British 
 Standard Economy  32" 31" - 33"  30" - 33"  31"31"
 Premium Economy  33" 35" - 37" 34" - 35"   34" - 37" 38"

Other airlines checked included Iberia Airlines, Air France, KLM, and Lufthansa. None of those operate Boeing 767 or 757 aircraft, so direct comparisons were not possible.

Bottom line: Of course Icelandair has more legroom than some, particularly in standard economy. But it also has less than others, so its blanket statement, “More legroom when you fly Icelandair to Europe” is simply marketing hype.

On a slightly different but related topic, I researched and wrote an article in Sept. 2015 about the price difference between economy and business classes. Interestingly, on a percentage basis, Icelandair had the smallest difference of the airlines researched between standard economy and its Saga Business Class but the largest difference between standard economy and premium economy.

As savvy travelers know, it pays to do one’s homework. If legroom or seat width or in-flight amenities are important, check the websites of the airlines you are considering as well as independent sites like SeatGuru. The wealth of information available can help you make better choices when traveling, quite possibly making your trip just that much more enjoyable.

Visit my main page at for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

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