Icelandair Awards To Europe Now Available and There’s Something Very Strange About Them

Back in September Alaska Airlines and Icelandair announced a re-introduction of their partnership.

The two airlines partnered up until June 2013. Speculation at the time was that the partnership crumbled either because:

The Icelandair program isn’t very good, it isn’t even a good deal for flying to Iceland. In fact the only good deal I’ve seen is using Icelandair’s points for inflight duty free shopping.

It’s usually best to buy tickets to Iceland rather than using miles. (And not even just when there’s a mistake fare.) Delta’s flight is almost always too many miles. Other frequent flyer programs mean a lot of extra flying via Europe. And the flights themselves can price reasonably.

For the renewed partnership, reciprocal points-earning and lounge access for elites started October 1. Award redemption started yesterday.

Alaska Airlines has posted the Icelandair award chart on its website.

You can fly Icelandair to Iceland or through Iceland to Europe.

  • With Alaska Airlines awards you can include Alaska Airlines segments as part of the award.
  • Awards are available one-way.
  • Stopovers are allowed in each direction.

What’s really unique about this award chart is that there are multiple tiers of economy awards. That’s surprising because in general when one airline is able to book an award on another airline, they have access to only one tier of saver inventory on the partner.

An airline may offer multiple tiers of availability on their own flights but rarely is this the case on partners. In fact I cannot recall it between two airlines with separate frequent flyer programs outside of Continental/Northwest (Continental had access to Northwest RuleBuster inventory, and Northwest had access to EasyPass). Here Alaska has three different tiers of economy awards and one business class tier.

The other thing that’s unique about Alaska redemptions on Icelandair is that Alaska is adding fuel surcharges to awards. Here’s a one-way economy award’s pricing (note that business class fuel surcharges are the same as economy surcharges).

Until now, Alaska added fuel surcharges only to British Airways awards. It’s unfortunate to see the practice spread, in a time of low fuel prices even, although in fairness they’ve just dropped ‘fuel’ from the name and don’t even pretend the surcharge is for ‘something’. It’s just a junk fee.

This may still be a reasonable deal for Iceland travel during peak season, but finding cheap awards during that time will be hard.

I like this better as an option to get from the West Coast to Europe via Reykjavik in ‘business class’ (their product isn’t up to par, but it may get the job done).

Their North American route network is more extensive than I had even realized serving New York (JFK and Newark), Washington Dulles, Boston, Chicago, Orlando, Denver, Portland, Seattle, Anchorage, Toronto, Edmonton, Montreal, and Vancouver.

Since it’s Icelandair Saga Club redemptions for travel on Alaska that used to be an amazing value, it’s worth noting that — even though the airline often sells miles cheaply via — the new award chart doesn’t offer much in the way of value.

I think the most interesting thing about this partnership is that Alaska has three different tiers of redemptions for Icelandair economy. That’s truly unique in the world of airline mileage agreements.

(HT: Miles To Go)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I misunderstood your post… I thought you meant we could now use Alaska points to purchase fares thru Iceland. But when I searched for awards on AlaskaAir, it shows the same ‘ol flights via British Airways… priced at $350 + all your points (essentially). Not a good value. I guess I will just buy the tix outright via IcelandAir.

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