- Wow Air and its low-cost flights to Iceland no longer exist after the airline collapsed in March, but it’s still possible to score a flight deal to the Land of Fire and Ice.
- I recently flew on Delta from New York’s JFK Airport to Keflavik, Reykjavik’s main international airport, and got a free upgrade to Comfort Plus, Delta’s extra-legroom seats, thanks to my frequent-flyer status.
- However, I found that Comfort Plus on Delta’s 757-200 came with some compromises. It was nice having extra legroom, but I might have been happier back in coach.
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When the Icelandic low-cost carrier Wow Air abruptly stopped flying in March, Iceland’s economy took an immediate and sustained hit.
With its shockingly low fares – a $US199 round trip from US cities was not unheard of – and its attention-grabbing marketing tactics, the airline dropped off more than one-fourth of Iceland’s international visitors before its collapse, according to The New York Times.
Tourism made up more than one-third of Iceland’s economy in 2015, so Wow’s collapse has prompted recession worries there. The number of international visitors is expected to drop by 16% this year, with 20% fewer Americans visiting.
A few weeks before Wow’s collapse, I got an email from Scott’s Cheap Flights, a service that highlights flight deals from your favourite airport, with flights to Reykjavik, Iceland, for about $US220 on Delta.
Unfortunately, such compelling flight deals to Iceland are becoming rarer since Wow’s collapse, though they still pop up from time to time.
“The flight prices to Keflavik have been affected by Wow,” Darci Valiente, a flight searcher with Scott’s Cheap Flights, told Business Insider.
Valiente added that according to the Scott’s historical database, it would regularly see a nonstop Delta flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport “once a month in the $US200s and $US300s.”
“However, the last time we saw this deal was in July, and since then, prices have trended to the upper $US300s and lower $US400s,” Valiente said.
Now, I wasn’t purposely avoiding booking a flight on Wow, despite rumours at the time that the Icelandic carrier’s days were numbered. I was hoping to qualify for another year of elite frequent-flyer status on Delta, so the Wow-level fare on the US airline was quite appealing. My wife and I decided to book a long weekend in September.
Because of that frequent-flyer status – I am a “Platinum Medallion,” in Delta’s parlance, for 2019 – I got a free upgrade to Delta’s extra-legroom seats, branded as “Comfort Plus,” for both flights.
Comfort Plus is usually a nice perk on Delta’s domestic and international routes, but this particular flight from New York to Keflavik, the main international airport serving Reykjavik, is operated by an older narrow-body Boeing 757-200. While it’s a fun plane, and usually a comfortable one, Comfort Plus on it usually involves a few compromises – ones that aren’t worth the extra two inches of legroom.
Most of the Comfort Plus rows are against a bulkhead or an exit, or behind the “Premium Select” seats – Delta does not offer business class on the relatively short Iceland flight, only its take on premium economy. Those Comfort Plus seats end up with a few shortcomings. Other seats, like mine for the outbound flight, are right next to the bathroom, meaning you have aisle traffic and an odor throughout the flight.
That said, it was a fine flight. But if I’d have paid the extra couple hundred dollars that the Comfort Plus seats usually cost, I would have been quite unhappy.
Take a look at how my flight experience went:
Delta operates from two terminals at JFK: 2 and 4. Terminal 4 is significantly bigger and serves most of Delta’s international routes.
However, since Delta’s flight to Iceland is on a 757 — smaller than the planes that fly most routes to Europe — it can leave from the smaller Terminal 2. But because the terminal does not have passport-control facilities, the flight returns to Terminal 4.
Unfortunately, Terminal 2 is a bit lacking. It tends to serve mostly point-to-point domestic flights and often gets crowded.
There are a handful of sit-down restaurants, a Wendy’s, a couple of small shops and newsstands, and a Delta Sky Club lounge.
We went up to the Sky Club to have a light preflight dinner and a drink, but it was really, really crowded — to the point that it was almost impossible to find a place for two people to sit together.
We found a seat eventually … though we were facing this person who thought it was OK to put their feet up on the table where people put their food.
The buffet area was overrun, and the food looked pretty unappealing, so we headed down to one of the restaurants instead.
Eventually, we went toward our gate.
Here’s my seat, 17C. That’s an aisle seat on the left side of the plane.
Delta has a few 757 configurations, and this one — without “Delta One” business class — is a bit odd.
The boarding door and one of the lavatories is right in the middle of the Comfort-Plus section, meaning the cabin has a sort of scattered feel, and a lot of seats are up against bulkheads. For example, I had a bulkhead just behind me. Luckily, I was still able to recline.
One major downside to this seat was that I was right next to the lavatory, meaning I would have people bumping into me trying to get into and out of the restroom all night. Plus, the smell was quite unpleasant.
Here’s the view to my immediate right. How lovely.
If you’re booked on one of these 757 flights, it’s worth noting that row 18 on the right side is directly behind the lavatory, and seats are slightly narrower since the tray table and entertainment monitors are stored in the armrests. The same is true for row 19 on the left side, which is behind the boarding door.
Row 15, behind the “Premium Select” seats, also has tray tables and monitors in the armrests.
But back to my seat, 17C. Despite the odd placement, the seat itself was perfectly comfortable for the roughly five-hour flight.
Each Comfort Plus seat on the 757 is roughly 17.3 inches wide with 34 inches of pitch, the amount of space between the back of one seat and the back of the seat in front of it.
That’s two to three more inches of pitch than the seats in the main cabin, and the same width.
That’s certainly not industry-leading, but it’s on par with most of Delta’s narrow-body jets. For comparison, Comfort Plus seats on the widebody 767, which operates many of Delta’s flights to Europe, are 17.7 inches wide with 25 inches of pitch.
One other source of annoyance, though: The rail or “leg” of the seat in front of me pretty much bisected that stowage space. That didn’t affect my legroom, but if I had tried to store a carry-on, I wouldn’t have been able to fit a full-size backpack.
Each passenger got a small pillow and a blanket that were waiting on the seat.
Flight attendants also distributed small amenity kits with a sleep mask, earplugs, and a cleaning wipe.
Each seat (aside from seats in the rows mentioned before) had an entertainment screen embedded in the seat in front, along with a USB port so you could charge your phone.
Each row also had two power outlets for larger devices like laptops.
There was a reading light and an air vent for each seat. I opened my air vent all the way, which helped minimise the smell from the lavatory.
There seemed to be some rowdy passengers on this flight. The flight attendants actually had to stop the safety video and restart it because people were messing around in the aisles. Soon enough, though, we pushed back and were in the air.
Shortly after pushing back, flight attendants came around with the menus. This is a nice touch on Delta’s international flights in economy, adding a pleasant feeling to the meal service and helping you plan ahead (for example, you can skip dinner if you know that a light meal will be served before landing).
It also lets you decide what to eat before the flight attendants get to you. Here were the entrée options on my flight …
… and here was the run of show.
There was also a full drink list.
A few minutes after takeoff, flight attendants came around with hot towels. This is usually something you’d see in business or first class, but Delta also does it in economy. (Admittedly, they’re disposable wipes rather than cloth towels like in the premium cabins.) It’s yet another nice touch, and it feels nice to wipe your hands after getting through the airport and on the plane.
I started my first movie of the flight. (It was fine, though a disappointing capstone on what had been an interesting “X-Men” series.)
Dinner came about 45 minutes into the flight. I went for the chicken-salad option.
I’m not used to saying this about aeroplane food, especially in coach, but it was delicious. The lettuce was crisp, the chicken was tender, and everything was flavorful …
… even without the dressing.
There was also cheese (and crackers) …
… a blondie for dessert …
… and a small fruit salad.
Sitting in Comfort Plus, I was lucky to get dinner early on in the service — after about 15 minutes, the pilots announced that we were entering an area with reported turbulence and that the flight attendants would have to buckle in.
Eventually, the turbulence ended, and people could move around again.
Once dinner was served to everyone, the cabin lights were lowered. They stayed dark through the rest of the flight.
Soon enough, we began to descend. After about 20 minutes, we made a light, easy, and on-time touchdown at Keflavik International Airport.
We parked at a remote stand and took a bus to the terminal.
Soon enough, we made it to the terminal and through customs, ready to start our first day in Iceland!
After a few days of hiking and exploring around Reykjavik, it was time to head home.
We also flew Delta on the return. The flight leaves at 8:30 a.m., and I wasn’t able to take photos in the airport because we were running a bit late.
Here’s the Delta 757 Comfort Plus cabin in Iceland.
This time, I was in seat 16C, one row up from my previous flight. We also just happened to end up on the same exact plane.
The experience was similar, but sitting one row up — and not being directly next to the restroom — made a huge difference.
Aside from the seat, the main difference on this flight was the menu and the service, since it was a morning flight.
Here was the breakfast menu …
… and the run of show.
Drink service came first, with this bizarrely worded napkin …
… and then a cookie …
… and then the WiFi.
Breakfast service came next. It’s a good thing that both options were sandwiches, because there was no silverware on the plane. One of the flight attendants said that apparently the catering ground staff forgot to load it. That was fine for the sandwich …
… but it made it a little awkward to eat the cheese spread with crackers and the fruit salad. Eh, first-world problems.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, and there was one more drink and snack service before landing.
Soon enough, we were on the ground at JFK. So what did I think of Delta’s speedy service to Iceland?
The five-hour flight between New York and Reykjavik is an easy one. By the time you reach cruising altitude and have dinner or breakfast, watch a movie, and have another snack, you’re already on approach.
Wow Air’s incredible flight deals and marketing led to a tourism boom for Iceland and heavy competition on routes. Prices have generally gone up since the airline’s collapse, but there are still decent prices available, and the Reykjavik area makes for a fantastic long weekend.
If you fly Delta, just be careful when picking your seats. While extra legroom might seem appealing at first glance, the odd seat layout on the older 757-200 jets leads to several compromises for Comfort Plus, like narrow seats or a malodorous adjacent lavatory.
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