Featured Image: Simone Chellini/Airways

Trip Report: Flying Icelandair’s Saga Premium to Keflavik

DALLAS – Hello from Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS). Today, we are heading to Keflavik International (KEF) on board Icelandair’s (FI) largest aircraft, the Boeing 767-300. FI employs over 1% of the Icelandic population and has a fleet of 48 aircraft, 43 of which are Boeing 737s, 757s, and 767s.

Thanks to its geographical position, FI has developed a unique network. The airline connects North America to Europe, flying thrice daily to major cities like Seattle (SEA) and New York (JFK). FI’s network is optimized for transferring between the two sides of the Ocean. However, the airline also offers a complimentary stopover program, allowing passengers to visit Iceland for up to a week before continuing the journey.

Today’s flight would allow us to continue to SEA with a one-hour stopover in KEF or board a flight four hours after we arrive in Iceland. Airways chose the second option because we wanted to visit Icelandair’s Saga Lounge at KEF.

View from AMS panoramic terrace. Photo: Simone Chellini/Airways

Back to Schiphol

As always, I arrived in AMS by train. The Dutch hub is at most two hours away by train, regardless of where you are in the Netherlands. The check-in opened three hours and closed just sixty minutes before departure. Passengers flying on Saga Premium, FI’s Business Class, can skip the line and take advantage of priority check-in. 

I arrived more than three hours before my flight and spent quality time on AMS’ huge panoramic terrace. Placed before security controls, passengers can relax before their flights at this unique plane-spotters heaven in Europe.

Back at departure hall 1, I queued up for check-in, where I was asked some questions about my United States visa, as my final destination was Seattle, Washington. I collected my boarding pass and headed to priority security, which saved me time over the standard security line.

Usually, I would spend this time in the pre-departure lounge, exploring the area and enjoying a pre-flight meal. However, as FI uses the Aspire 26 lounge here in Amsterdam, I knew that my stay would have needed longer. I’ve paid many visits to the lounge in the past year, and there’s not much to report. The food is poor, the views are bad, and privacy is lacking. Unsurprisingly, the oneworld Alliance opened its new lounge here in AMS a few months ago.

Icelandair’s premium check-in area. Photo: Simone Chellini/Airways

On this occasion, my experience was awful. Upon showing my boarding pass, I was informed of a queue outside the lounge to enter, which made me and some fellow travelers wait half an hour standing up. At least there was an online queueing system, which allowed us to check on our phones occasionally to receive any updates regarding our wait.

Once inside, I struggled to find a seating spot as the lounge was already crowded. The dining could have been better, with limited food options and drinks currently on offer. I spent around half an hour writing some articles for Airways before heading to the gate well before departure.

KLM’s Orange Pride livery on the Boeing 777-300ER. Photo: Simone Chellini/Airways

Boarding, Cabin

Walking to the D gates, I noticed PH-BVA, my favorite Boeing 777-300ER, wearing KLM’s ‘Orange Pride’ livery. TF-ISN, our Icelandair Boeing 767-300, was waiting for us at the gate in some great light. Icelandair flies to AMS twice daily, using its Boeing 767s, 757s and 737s fleet. 

The first flight of the day, FI501, is usually operated by a Boeing 767 or the rare Boeing 757-300. I pre-boarded and kindly asked the gate agents to board one minute before everyone else to take a clear picture of the cabin.

The Saga Premium cabin is configured in a 2-1-2 layout, and the economy class is in a comfortable 2-3-2 layout. When checking in, I pre-selected seat 5D, a central throne at the end of the business class cabin, free of charge. The seat is famous for being accessible from two aisles, and it was my first time trying such a product.

Saga Premium cabin on the Boeing 767, arranged in a 2-1-2 cabin. Photo: Simone Chellini/Airways

The seat features a foldable footrest, which I always appreciate on aircraft, and some wide armrests. Due to the extra-large legroom, the tray table is stored in the left armrest, which also houses a universal power outlet. Waiting for me, I found a bottle of water and a comfortable pillow.

The cabin crew provided a set of noise-cancelling headphones, which we borrowed for the flight, a blanket, and an extensive drinks menu, which we will discuss later. I placed my backpack under the front seat and prepared for takeoff. The Saga Premium cabin was full, with 25 seats in 5 rows occupied. Due to traffic in AMS, we pushed back slightly after schedule.

Front row of economy class, arranged in a 2-3-2 cabin. Photo: Simone Chellini/Airways

In-Flight

After takeoff, a Wi-Fi connection was immediately available and free of charge for all passengers in Saga Premium. I connected my phone and used the connection for the entire flight. It was fast and stable enough to upload pictures to social media.

I started watching a movie using the noise-cancelling headphones before lunch was served. These headphones come with a 3.5mm jack, which can be used with standard consumer devices. FI ensures that customers do not remove them from the aircraft by asking passengers if they ‘Would like to borrow a pair of headphones?’. 

Saga Premium cabin on the Boeing 767. Photo: Simone Chellini/Airways

Regarding the lunch service, I had heard about Icelandair’s catering before and was excited to try the airline’s catering for the first time. As the drinks list was handed out before take-off, I studied the many options and noticed a selection of seven different gins. 

I enjoyed tasting the Lundey Gin, named after Lundey Island, famous for its iconic puffins. The gin changes color from bright blue to pink once mixed with tonic. This refreshing cocktail came with some sundried tomato breadsticks, which could have been out of the Italian region of Apulia based on how good they were.

The aperitif set the bar very high for the ‘light meal’. While no option was provided on board, passengers flying Saga Premium could pre-select a meal from almost 20 options before flying. I noticed great attention towards people with intolerances and meals prepared following religious requirements.

Aperitif service. Photo: Simone Chellini/Airways

I did not pre-select any meal on this flight. On this 3-hour flight, the catering could not have been better. The meal included a fish appetizer of fresh salmon and shrimp and a main course of waffles with fried chicken and duck confit. The dessert was a white chocolate mousse. 

The quality of every single bite was beyond my highest expectations, and it felt natural to compliment the cabin crew multiple times throughout the meal. We were also served bread, which came with whipped butter. Whipped butter is usually found at high-level Michelin stars restaurants, and I had never tried it before, let alone on a three-hour flight.

Overall, this meal ranks in my top three ever, with some intense competition from La Compagnie (B0) and Finnair (AY), except those were lunches and dinners on 9-hour flights across the Atlantic.

Light meal. Photo: Simone Chellini/Airways

After lunch, I explored the IFE a little more. The interface is very essential, and the touchscreen works fine. The movie selection offers up to 70 titles, plus several TV series. I found some of my favorites here, so I ensured I would not get bored on the upcoming flight to Seattle. What struck me, though, is the impressive selection of Icelandic music. I counted over 300 albums, some of which I decided to try.

The IFE also features a live map, but as expected on a 23.9-year-old aircraft, there are no live cameras on board. I continued my movie, Oppenheimer (yet again), which I could not finish before landing.

The feeling of having access to two aisles was unique for the whole flight. Seat 5D is placed just before the economy class section and feels like a throne. It provides a great reclining, which I could use while not disturbing anyone behind me.

Icelandair’s Boeing 757 in Keflavik. Photo: Simone Chellini/Airways

Landing, Conclusions

Upon approaching, we received a refreshing hot towel. The cabin was secured and checked, and the crew collected our noise-canceling headphones. We landed on time before taxiing to a remote gate and deboarded through a permanent jetbridge connected to a bus.

The bus left us in the Schengen area of the terminal, where the Saga Lounge is located just before passport controls. I headed to this area and waited for my next flight to SEA. More on this will be available soon on our website.

This was a comfortable flight on board an aircraft that, despite its age, provides an excellent premium product. My take-home point, however, is the catering: on such a short flight, the lunch quality was superb, more than making up for the lack of a proper lounge experience in Amsterdam. 

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