Iceland on Miles and Points

Reader Ray asks,

What’s the most efficient way (point wise) to get from SFO (JFK is ok too) to KEF? Iceland Air doesn’t seem to play point game?

Icelandair does play the points game, but they no longer represent anything approximating good value with their points.

Three years ago Icelandair was a partner of Alaska Airlines and offered an amazing deal for travel on Alaska. It was so good that Icelandair removed Alaska Airlines redemptions entirely from their program briefly.

Unfortunately those were brought back and made more expensive and then the partnership ended entirely two years ago.

Icelandair’s award chart is expensive. Indeed, Icelandair’s points are probably best used for onboard duty free.

They once had a fantastic and famous $61 mistake fare, and now discounter Wow Air regularly offers cheap flights (like $350 roundtrip, plus all sorts of avoidable fees).

Paid travel is frequently the best way to get to Iceland since awards are expensive and paid tickets can be relatively inexpensive.

Leaving aside Wow Air, straight up buying Icelandair roundtrips from New York next spring price out reasonably such that you’re not going to want to spend ~ 60,000 miles plus taxes for an award in my opinion.

Iceland is a very short transatlantic flight. A flight from Boston to Reykjavik is shorter than flying from San Francisco to Boston.

Given that I wouldn’t pay the increment for a premium class of service in miles probably, some will pay the ~ $1500 that you can sometimes buy business class tickets for (though right now I see these same flights as above pricing more like $2000).

This can be seen as an opportunity to use points which redeem as cash for a ticket but don’t transfer to miles.

Implicit here is an assumption that your miles can go to more leveraged uses, so if they’re limited you’d want to save them for higher-value redemptions… and also that with such a short flight I wouldn’t travel out of my way via Europe with all of the extra flying that entails in order to get to Reykjavik on an award.

For ‘zone’ or ‘region-based’ award charts, Iceland is going to be an expensive redemption if it’s considered part of Europe. New York – Iceland will cost just as many miles under many award charts as San Francisco – Istanbul.

Another way this could make sense though as part of an award ticket is through a mileage program that allows stopovers. While flight service to and from Iceland, even from within Europe, can be limited you may be able to use a program like United’s MileagePlus when you’re going to go to Europe anyway to make your Europe destination the ‘stopover’ and add on a flight to Iceland and back.

United allows a stopover for no additional miles on a roundtrip award. Then it’s viable as part of an award ticket.

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’m not sure I understand the response to what is the most efficient way on points.

    Using a United partner award is the most efficient way on points? I thought it would be on One World.

  2. Doesn’t DL still fly JFK-KEF in the summer season? Not that we love the DL program, but its there.

  3. we used southwest points to get to BWI, then took WOW to Reykjavik. We used the sign up bonus from the Barclay arrival to cover the paid fare on WOW. We packed light, used Hilton and Radisson for hotels on awards. Amazing country! Loved it!!!

  4. @Joelfreak my point is you pay US-Europe pricing for that, which given low prices to buy tickets isn’t necessarily worth it. Even when you can find saver seats.

  5. We have been wanting to go to Iceland and have found that NO one goes there.
    One World – British Airways and Air Berlin.
    One World -SAS, Austrian and Lufthansa

    on a BOS -Iceland trip Unless you plan a very expensive trip on BA (60miles min plus fuel charges) or a 11hrs in the air on LH with a 4-5 hr stop over, you have to go direct.

    Bos to KEF can run $600 and take me 4 hrs. as long as I plan it right.

  6. I am visiting Iceland this October and have done lots of research as far as the air fair is concerned.
    Very interesting to find out that flight from IAD to KEF was much better off with two one-way tickets rather than round-way tickets. Also Iceland air’s advertisement of the stopover is actually not a bargain. I still could fetch better price with three one-way tickets for the stop-over place including.

  7. “@Joelfreak my point is you pay US-Europe pricing for that, which given low prices to buy tickets isn’t necessarily worth it. Even when you can find saver seats.”

    Why? Either it’s Sky Pesos, in which case, it’s perfectly fine to pay 60,000 miles for a $600+ ticket, or these Sky Pesos might (god forbid) have a higher value than a penny per. Can’t have it both ways.

  8. @Andy Shurman I still want to extract more than a penny of value out of SkyMiles. I haven’t claimed SkyMiles are worth less than a cent — just that I am not prepared to say they will always be worth more than that / can’t be worth less. In any case I think you’re assuming it’s possible to find 30k one-way JFK-KEF flights. Looking at June 1 next year, the month-long calendar shows the lowest one-way price of 47,500 with most dates 55k – 65k EACH WAY.

  9. Using 10K AA miles each way if you are already traveling in Europe is a great cost-saving option as well. Given the fact that many ticket prices from cities that are not served by WOW can be pretty pricey, it makes for a great alternative if you are in Europe. Alternatively, it is a nice option if you pay to fly to Iceland and want to check out more of Europe.

  10. We got great tickets on WOW airline last June. $129 going and $229 return and we added $96 for a checked bag round trip. We were very careful to follow WOW’s weight rules. Only one carry one bag and this could only weigh 5 KG -11 lbs. We bought nylon bags on Amazon, and were able to carry a surprising amount. In Boston they weighed everything when we checked in, then I switched my hiking boots into my carry on bag and put on more comfortable shoes for the flight. It was a very pleasant flight-just read and follow their rules. We stayed at the Radisson Blu 1919 on Club Carlson points in Reykjavik-great location.

  11. @Gary Leff Not assuming. 30/62.5K to KEF for this summer started showing up last September-October. In January this year, availability was excellent. I bought my own ticket (for the end of August) in May when availability was scarce again. At least judging by this year, it was far from non-existent.

  12. We did Iceland last year as a part of a tour of Scandinavia. We bought the ticket from Bergen, Norway to Iceland on Norwegian for $81. We then redeemed 10k of AA miles for Reykjavik to Vienna via Hamburg with a 10 hrs layover. I believe Air Berlin only operates Reykjavik – Hamburg in Summer and early Fall. I believe EasyJet also services Reykjavik from London and Bristol in summer and Fall.

  13. We visited Iceland this summer on $100 roundtrip tickets on Easyjet from Belfast (a new route). We combined it with a visit to Ireland, and took the low-cost Avios redemption from BOS to DUB. It’s about $10 and 2 hours by bus from DUB to Belfast. Not the fastest way to Iceland, but you can do it quite cheaply this way — and visit Ireland, too.

  14. @Gary,
    I’m confused by this post. There isn’t anything there about how to actually get from SFO to KEF. You give an example of NY to KEF, but that isn’t relevant. Should the LW buy two separate tickets? It seems like the options are basically: buy two separate tickets or buy the ticket on Delta (with miles if they can find a reasonable price!).

  15. I am a little confused too as you mention United but they dont go to Iceland or I can’t see any of star alliance do? So are you saying book a ticket to Europe and then buy a ticket to Iceland from there? We are planning a London trip oct 2016 and want to stop over in Iceland. We have united miles but have found going to England great on taxes/fees around 20 coming back 322 in taxes/fees so wonder if there’s a way to avoid those taxes?

  16. I purchased 2 JFK-KEF Saga class tickets round trip for 50k Starpoints each this past June. Booked them in February. These normally run 75k each so I must have gotten in on some kind of price promotion Icelandair was running since this was obviously a pay with points redemption. Normally I would not burn Starpoints with pay with points but I always have a ton and 100k (including taxes) total for 2 round trip business/first tickets to Europe (technically) is not too bad.

  17. Annoyed greatly at Iceland air for being so isolationist. Another option is LCC airline Wiz, which flies cheap to a few U.S. citie . Many other routes are seasonal, incl JFK. Also fra-kef. I like osl-kef esp with all these osl deals of late. Dates near periphery of schedule are easier to get, and I def would have used for a return flight on Delta if they didn’t have that dumb YQ on EU originating one-ways. I also saw a anc-kef on Iceland for fairly cheap near periphery, but later than I wanted to go.

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