First Class Comfort at Coach Prices.

CHUR, SWITZERLAND–Last night I flew out of Boston on an overnight Icelandair flight to Reykjavik and then on to Zurich. From there, I caught a train to the town of Chur. It’s the Swiss terminus for the Bernina Express, which is one of the most spectacular train rides in the world. I’ll be leaving this little hotel in a few hours to ride the entire route, from Chur over the Alps to the Italian town of Tirano. The views are what you go for, but the engineering that was necessary to create this rail line is also astonishing.
Yesterday was my second experience flying on Icelandair and I must say I was once again impressed. It is a very smart operation. For one thing, all they fly are Boeing 757-200s, so parts are interchangeable and their maintenance problems are minimized. This morning as we were taxiing to get into position for takeoff, I counted thirteen 757s, and at least three or four had already departed.
Flights originating in the U.S. are all scheduled to arrive in Reykjavik within what appears to be a 90-minute slot in the mornings. As these planes arrive, passengers are unloaded, run through passport control, and hustled aboard their continuing flight. It’s a very slick operation. Two factors make it work so well: everything goes through Reykjavik and flying only one model aircraft.
And, speaking of the 757, it’s a single aisle with 3-and-3 seating. Like every airline these days, the back of the bus is crowded. So this time, I opted for what Icelandair calls Comfort Class, which cost me an additional $248 … that’s total for both legs; Boston to Reykjavik; Reykjavik to Zurich. Here again they keep it simple: for Comfort Class, they put you in those big, wide first class seats–two on each side of the aisle with good leg room. The only difference between what I got and what the first class passengers got was the food. I ordered off the economy class menu, but didn’t have to pay for it. The people in First Class got specially prepared meals. That’s fine … what I wanted, and what I got, was the big wide seat and plenty of leg room. It was well worth the extra cost.
For me, that’s the point: Icelandair took me to Europe — in first class comfort — for about half what it would have cost in basic economy on one of the “name” carriers. Will I do it again? Absolutely.