Pamela Wade flies Icelandair FI471 from London Gatwick to Reykjavik.

The plane:

Boeing 757-200, clearly a well-used workhorse but still presentable.

Class: Business, known on Icelandair as Saga. This meant I could pass through Premium Security at Gatwick, which was efficient and friendly, with lots of smiling "madams" and "my loves" from the staff — a world on from the authoritarian hostility of LAX.


My seat: 2F which is a bulkhead seat on this plane meaning extra legroom but no bag stowage and the screen is inside the armrest. There were pillows embroidered with Icelandic phrases, noise-cancelling headphones, and the seats were wide, leather, and comfortable. The 2:2 configuration afforded plenty of personal space. That wasn't the case back behind the curtain, where it's 3:3 and very cramped, especially if you're in the middle seat next to a big, man-spreading Icelander, as I was on my return.

Price: It cost $345 for going Saga, return Economy.

How full? Saga was half empty but Economy looked almost full.

Flight time: A smooth 2 hours 45 to Reykjavik with plenty to enjoy out of the window: pastoral England, remote Scotland, volcanic Iceland.

Fellow passengers: A mixture of business people, multi-national tourists, school holiday parties and locals.

Entertainment: The safety video is an Air NZ crib, set in Iceland's dramatic outdoors and culminating with a jump off a waterfall, but at least it was in English, with Icelandic subtitles. Less reassuring was the prominence given to notifying passengers of Iceland's emergency phone number, 112. The music channel naturally featured multiple offerings from Bjork, among other artists, but the 50 listed movies astonishingly did not include The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which was my whole reason for going to Iceland. The inflight magazine stated with pride that "sheep are integral to Iceland, and number more than twice the human population".

Food and drink: Only Saga passengers and children under 2 get free meals. Mine was — surprise — lamb shanks with mashed potato, which was nice, though the cooked pickled onion accompaniment was unusual. The chocolate dessert was delicious and naturally the wine helped.

Toilets: Disconcertingly called Snyrting in Icelandic, inside it's just a regular loo. But take care at the airport: the combination tap and Dyson airblower is a great way to end up sprayed with soap foam and basin drips.


Service: The cabin staff were smartly dressed, pleasant and professional but there was no fussing. In that respect they were the ideal introduction to Icelanders generally.

Airport experience: Keflavik airport, 40 minutes outside Reykjavik, is modern and efficient with a very well-worn path, once through immigration, to the duty-free shop where it seemed everyone went to stock up on the cheapest alcohol in Iceland.

Fly again? Definitely. Icelandair's no-extra-charge stopover scheme is a great way to spend some time in this spectacularly beautiful and fascinating country.