Should We Use the Icelandair Purchased Miles Deal to… Fly to Iceland?

I mentioned yesterday that Icelandair’s award chart is really expensive for flights on Icelandair itself, it also happens to be quite pricey for flights on partner Finnair. And yet it is strangely inexpensive for flights on Alaska Airlines. (Roundtrip transatlantic business class on Finnair is 300,000 miles!)

I thought, gee, I’ve kinda always wanted to visit Iceland. I shared the $61 Baltimore – Reykjavik fare about 8 years back but didn’t book it myself. It’s tough to get to with miles, Delta has a flight and up until recently there were no U.S. partners of Alaska Airlines. I could buy a ticket, and it’s a pretty short flight for ‘Europe’. I’m not going to redeem via, say, Frankfurt and then Scandinavia using Star Alliance miles just to get business class. I never went.

So perhaps this deal, where you can get miles from scratch for about a penny apiece would make sense to actually visit Iceland.

But it doesn’t.

I live in Washington DC. “USA1” which includes New York and Boston in addition to Washington Dulles (and listed seasonal service to Minneapolis) to Iceland runs 150,000 miles roundtrip. So for about $1500 in purchased miles I could fly non-stop business class to Iceland.

Except… do you know what paid business class on Icelandair runs?

And I would earn miles (credited to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, natch). And I wouldn’t have to worry about availability.

Not that Icelandair’s business class is much better than US domestic first class, but then for all intents and purposes the flight to and from the East Coast is a transcon, a redeye going East of course.

Sadly, Icelandair really is just a play for redeeming first class on Alaska Airlines.

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 did the Iceland trip (in Dec. paid coach fare in the $300s) and highly recommend it for a long weekend. Even over the winter Iceland was a really fun visit. Having a foot on each tectonic plate with space in between them is not an experience you forget!

  2. I am still laughing at these rooks who are booking $350 flights to Hawaii — when they don’t live in the departure city — and screaming HOT DEAL!

    No doubt this is nice if you have no status AND live in an AS city, but I just don’t see the value beyond that.

    So, how does it look to use Saga miles for Hilton stays? It seemed that was an option.

  3. @hobo13 not looking particularly attractive to me for hotel redemptions generally, though there look to be some decent values at the low end

  4. Isn’t this usually the case? Rarely does buying miles with an airline make sense for redeeming for an award. I think buying miles for a business class fare on United would end up close to even, too.

  5. @Scottrick – but frequently when you can buy miles *for a penny* it turns out to be a pretty good deal for international premium cabin travel.

  6. I like Icelandic. They upgraded me from coach with no status on a Reykjavik – Minneapolis flight solely because I’m tall.

  7. Is there a pattern for AS on releasing their award-availability? Have anyone tried icelandair and have a report about it?

  8. And please notice that you can only buy up to 100000miles per account per year…so no 150K iceland trip if you buy miles….

  9. I bought United miles yesterday for less than a penny, when I renewed by original UA Chase CC (now the Select, I think, besides the Explorer and Club) for $85.00. I forgot you get 5K miles for renewing, so used the threat to cancel to see what I’d get, the CSA offered 3K then reminded me of the auto 5K. So I said sold right away, then asked if I caved too quick, and maybe she could add in another 2K. She laughed, told me I’m funny, and said yes. So 10K miles for $85 & I keep my original UA card for sentimental reasons.

  10. BTW – kicking myself for not doing the Icelandic deal on Friday before they were overwhelmed, oh well, we’re already going to the Yucatan this winter, how much beach relaxation can one take??? LOL

  11. Still can’t complete the sign-up process. Tried friday night when I first saw this. Got the “technical issue, please wait” message. No email from them since. Tried creating another account in my name from a different browser. No dice, says there’s already an account for me in the system. OK, I try just signing in. Not found in their system. Tried lost password reset, says me email address is not in their system. Caught in limbo.

  12. N.B., Saga Class (Icelandair’s business class) is WORSE than domestic first class — slightly wider seats but less leg room than UA Economy Plus. You pay for it not because it’s business class, but because Economy on Icelandair is a truly miserable experience. That said, Iceland is fabulous. Gary, for a foodie like you, I recommend dining at the Hotel Budir, 2 hours NW of Reykjavik. (It’s also a lovely place to stay. In Reykjavik, I still think the best restaurant (particularly after the closing of Sjávarkjallarinn) is an India restaurant (of all things) called Austur-Indíafjelagið.

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