One of the most important factors in evaluating an airline that advertises Business Class seating is the culture of the country. For example, if you are flying Emirates Airlines Business Class you can expect a very luxurious and very expensive seat since the majority of the Arab world in flush with money at the top of the pyramid. Icelandair falls at the lower rungs of the Business Class ladder.
Simply arriving at the boarding gate will tell you what to expect for an in-flight experience. There is no semblance of orderly boarding whether you are in Business Class or Late-for Class. People crowd into the boarding area, and at an unknown time the announcement is given for passengers to board. An American might think of it as trying to be one of the first in line for the Black Friday specials once the doors are opened. However, once you squeeze on board and find your seat, things settle down.
Icelandair names its Business Class as Saga Class, and it seems appropriate given that anyone who flies the airline for the first time will have at least one story to tell. When you get to your seat you will likely find a pillow awaiting you, either for comfort or something to cry into after the Boarding Challenge. But the seats are wide enough and very comfortable, a necessity to de-stress from your earlier experience. In front of you there is an IFE screen for your personal entertainment, though if you are hoping for top rate movies or music you may be disappointed.
There are two stories to the in-flight entertainment packages – the one where you get a decent array of entertainment options, the other where the selection is bare bones. Therein lies the problem, since without any reliable consistency there is no way of knowing what you’ll be getting after you paid for your ticket. It needs to also be noted that the Wi-Fi service has the same consistency problem, but it doesn’t matter what flight you are boarding. It works for a while, then the signal strength drops, and finally you are left with a dead connection.
But the experience isn’t completely disappointing, as the food and beverage selection is not only reasonable but goes beyond the usual taste of airplane food. Icelandair boxes bundles, so instead of having to pay for each item which is a standard practice on many airlines, you can save yourself some money and get a combination of a meal and wine for less than $20 USD. They offer a wide selection of bundles, and you do have the option to order items individually. As for the taste, you are not likely to be disappointed. Water, coffee, juices, and sodas are free.
What often makes up for a lack of amenities and Business Class perks is the quality of the flight attendants. Icelandair has some of the best, as they are both professional and friendly. Finding the right balance between ignoring passengers and rushing them is something many flight attendants have trouble discovering. This does not seem to be true on Icelandair.
To sum up, the major problem with Icelandair’s advertised Saga Class as a Business Class seat is that you are paying for a premium seat that is likely to not be that much different than economy. You get a little more legroom (maybe) because it depends where your Saga seat is located. For business travelers who need to stay constantly connected, the poor Wi-Fi service can create significant problems, especially on a 4 or 5 hour flight.
A non-stop flight from Keflavik Airport to New York City will cost you about $2200 round trip for Business Class. In contrast, the same flight in Economy will cost you around $867. The math says that you should be getting at least $1200 more in services and amenities, but the experience says otherwise.
At the beginning of this article it was said that a country’s business culture has a lot to do with the type of airline Business Class services that are available. But keep in mind there are only a total of about 25 Business Class seats available on a flight, and based on the boarding chaos it is likely that most people choose Economy simply due to the price. If there is no distinction between Business Class and Economy when boarding, it follows that there isn’t much difference based on where you sit – or how much you pay.
Written by Garrett Parker
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