Friday, May 27, 2011

Traveling with kids via Iceland: why tempt the volcano?

The recent volcanic eruption in Iceland was luckily short-lived, and did not cause the kind of mayhem last year's eruption of Eyjafjallajökull did. However, since I will be flying Iceland Air to Sweden with my children later this summer, the delays and cancelled flights did make me wonder if I'd made the right choice flying via Iceland.

Yet another Icelandic volcano.
My family did have a good experience flying with Iceland Air before. I've written previously on this blog about our Iceland layover in January 2010. Unfortunately we won't be staying in Iceland this time (or at least we don't plan to: hopefully the volcanoes will let us go...), but there were several other considerations that made me decide to go with Iceland Air rather than another airline.

Price - Flying Iceland Air from Seattle's Sea-Tac airport to Stockholm, Arlanda was significantly cheaper than flying any airline out of Vancouver International.

Flight-duration - Flying via Iceland distributes the flight time more evenly between the two flights to Stockholm, and makes for a slightly shorter combined flight time. Instead of one 9 hour flight and one 2 1/2 hour flight, we end up with one 7 hour flight and one 3 hour flight. Not a huge difference, but I found it a lot easier to take those flight times than our usual long-haul schedule.

Easier connections - Keflavik Airport is small compared to a lot of the major airports in Europe (Amsterdam and Frankfurt for example), and this makes it much easier to get from your arrival gate to your departure gate. Also, Iceland Air is a fairly small airline, but they dominate the air-traffic in and out of Iceland. In other words, they know that most of the passengers for the departing Iceland Air flights are arriving on incoming Iceland Air flights, and will wait for them if at all possible.

At the Blue Lagoon, Iceland in January 2010.

Good service - I found that the service was very good, both on the airplane and at the airport. I had to pay for my meal, but the kids' meals were free. And of course, there's the Saga Shop service (which I really like and will use again). The people were also generally friendly, low-key and helpful. Even the security screeners seemed more relaxed (even though they did go through our carry-ons by hand) than I've seen at other airports (including some much smaller airports).

I did encounter one stewardess who did not speak English, which seemed a little odd to me (especially since most Icelandic people I encountered spoke English very well), but hey, those things happen. Maybe her German or Danish or French was better than mine!

Volcanic ash goes a long way - During last year's eruption, Iceland itself was not always the place where the airports were closed. Seems odd, but there you go. The ash shoots up in the atmosphere and who knows where it will end up? (The meteorologists I guess.) If there is a volcanic eruption, traveling through another European airport might not be a better option, rather the opposite.

So, I've got my fingers crossed that no other Icleandic volcanoes will erupt in the next couple of months (*knocks on wood*), and that if they do, their ash will go fly somewhere else than Keflavik and Arlanda air space.

2 comments:

  1. I share your sentiments about flying with Icelandair with children. We are also booked with them for our trip to Sweden and Denmark in July. My son loved it when we were last there in 2009 and will be returning for the amazing free stopover before we return home to Toronto.

    The prices are hard to beat and the airline is superb.

    http://www.minitraveler.ca

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  2. They are great! So good to hear from someone else who had experience flying with them: I still find a lot of people don't know about this airline, which is too bad. I know they don't fly to a lot of places compared to some major airlines, but I recommend them to people I talk to all the time.

    We can't do a stopover on this trip, but next time I definitely want to do a summer-time stopover in Iceland!

    (Also: love your site!)

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