Sunday, April 16, 2023

Our Upcoming 'Free' Icelandair Flight

March 2020 seems in some ways like a long time ago.

We'd just returned from a trip to London, and were relaxing in New York City before boarding a flight on Icelandair that would take us to Belgium. That's about the time that things fell apart. The night before our flight, President Trump announced a ban on flights from Europe  due to the Covid crisis. We managed to make contact with Icelandair and canceled our flight, then skedaddled home after a final-night splurge stay at the JFK TWA Hotel

We hunkered down for some considerable length of time, like much of the rest of the world. We kept ourselves busy partly by fighting with Icelandair over flight credits for that canceled flight. To make a long story short, and skipping over the details of our many and varied interactions with the airline, our Chase credit card provider, and the US and Icelandic government agencies overseeing airlines, Icelandair eventually gave us flight credits good for two years.

Fast forwarding to April 2020, we've just completed that delayed trip to Belgium via American Airlines, and we're now making a return trip to London via Icelandair. Traveling only as far as London meant that we didn't have to fork over any more money to Icelandair, which is our preference.

We had flown to Iceland in 2016 on Icelandair for a package tour and found the airline and the tour reasonable, even though we ended up being unable to credit the flights to Alaska, an Icelandair partner. This occurred when Icelandair changed our flight "fare bucket" after we bought our tickets.

We're again flying in the airline's Saga Class, somewhat between a typical domestic first class and international business class, perhaps closest to an international premium economy arrangement such as we experienced on our 2020 JFK-LHR BA flight

In 2016 we found SEA-KEF a little squished but okay for a seven-hour flight. We enjoyed the service and food.  This time we depart Seattle in mid-afternoon, and arrive at KEF (Keflavik Airport) just after 11:00PM our time, 6:00AM the following morning in Iceland. We're staying at an apparently decent hotel, the Aurora, an easy five-minute walk from the terminal. We've arranged for a (very) late arrival and a late checkout, putting us in good shape for our connecting flight to London Heathrow about eight hours later. We'll stay at the LHR Hilton for one night before taking the Tube to our London hotel.

While we have retained our London transport Oyster Cards, we now learn that it's apparently just as convenient to tap on and tap off with any contactless debit or credit card. We have several such no-fee cards. Since our Queen's Diamond Jubilee Oyster cards are apparently now collectors' items, maybe we should just try to sell them on ebay instead.

The last time we were in London, the weather was rainy. We still remember our soggy visit to the Tower of London. We're hoping for somewhat better weather this time, and look forward to visiting old and new (to us) tourist spots, as well as simply wandering around. As Dr. Samuel Johnson said back in the 1700s, "Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." We're staying again on points at the Hilton London Bankside, an outstanding hotel we greatly enjoyed on our 2020 visit.

On our return trip, from London Gatwick (LGW) to KEF, we had originally planned to take one of the buses for the 30-minute ride from KEF to Reykjavik for our overnight layover. However, once we found out how much even a bus costs, about US $130 return trip for two, and realized we'd have little time in Reykjavik, a city we'd previously visited, we decided simply to stay at the Aurora instead. 

Going both ways we'll have access as Saga Class travelers to the KEF Icelandair Lounge we enjoyed in 2016.  

It's actually a fairly simple itinerary. We battled Icelandair on principle. Let's see if the results were worth the effort in a practical sense.

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