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Trip Report: Crossing the Pond on a 737 MAX
Reykjavík, Iceland-based Icelandair was founded over 85 years ago in 1937, originally under the name Flugfélag Akureyrar. It has flown to many destinations over the years out of its International hub located at Reykjavík/Keflavík Airport, and a smaller hub at Reykjavík Domestic for flights within Iceland. The carrier is most known for its Icelandic stopover program, which allows passengers to stop in Iceland for up to seven days on flights between North America and Europe (or vise-versa) at no extra flight cost.
Detroit was Icelandair’s 13th destination in the United States and its 15th in North America, not only can passengers fly to Iceland but also onward to over 25 destinations in Europe as well as Greenland and domestically in Iceland. The new flight from Detroit to Reykjavík/Keflavík began on May 18, 2023, and will operate four times a week on board the carrier’s 160-seat Boeing 737 MAX 8.
All times discussed in this trip report are expressed in local time at that specific location unless stated otherwise.
Day of the Flight
The flight to Iceland left Detroit in the evening, so I flew in from another smaller airport within the state of Michigan a couple of hours before the flight got me into Detroit around 5:30 p.m. and with a departure time of three hours later I decided to head right to check-in. Icelandair operates out of the Evans terminal in Detroit.
A nice perk of Icelandair is that it does participate in the TSA PreCheck program, which means you hopefully will have a much easier time going through security especially when it is busy. Check-in was a breeze and they printed my boarding pass, and it took me only five minutes to get through the PreCheck lane at security.
I made my way through the terminal down to the end where the flight would be departing out of, gate D5.
When I arrived at the gate party setup was underway with a cake and goodies already out for passengers that were on the flight. The cake was beautifully decorticated like the outdoors with northern lights on top, trees, mountains on the bottom, and a waterfall going down the side.
I spent the next hour or so talking to other AvGeeks at the gate as well as Icelandair executives including an interview with Michael Raucheisen, who is the Communications Manager for the airline in North America, a video interview of this interview will be posted at a later date.
It wasn’t long before the star of the show arrived, TF-ICN, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 that was delivered to the Icelandic carrier back in 2019. This also happened to be my first flight onboard a 737 MAX of any variant, which was another exciting aspect of this trip for me. My aircraft was named ” Mývatnm,” which is a volcanic lake located in northern Iceland.
By this time the crew had shown up there was a photo opportunity with them too. Not long after the CEO of the airline Bogi Nils Bogason made an appearance for a speech.
A couple of other executives from the airport authority as well as the county made speeches, which can be found in the video at the end of this article. Following the speeches there was a ribbon cutting before the boarding of the aircraft started.
When getting onto the aircraft, the crew was giving out Detroit Metro Airport branded bags with pens, hand sanitizer, and a 66° North winter hat which ended up coming in handy on the trip.
For this flight across the Atlantic, I was seated in 3A, which is located in the carrier’s Saga Premium class which is the first four rows on their 737 MAX 8.
Also waiting at the seat for us was a bottle of Icelandic Glacial water, a pillow, and an Icelandair-branded blanket for the overnight trip.
At each seat was a large IFE screen which had a USB port on it as well as a headphone jack. Shortly after boarding, the crew came around and offered everyone a glass of sparkling wine
During the taxi out to the runway, we were given a traditional water cannon salute, believe it or not, this is the first time I have ever been inside the plane for a salute.
We then proceeded to head to the runway and gracefully lift off towards Iceland. I did notice how quiet it was on board compared to the other earlier versions of the Boeing 737.
Passengers on the left side of the plane could see the Detroit Metro Airport slowly disappearing into the distance just (under/over) the unique 737 MAX scimitar winglet.
Roughly 30 minutes after takeoff the flight attendants came around with a small bowl of cheese bread and asked us what our drink order would be. I choose Orange juice as I didn’t want to drink alcohol right before bedtime.
Shortly after that, the crew came around with the dinner menu, for those without dietary restrictions or pre-specified meals. The menu was the following; warm bread with whipped butter and Icelandic sea salt, Burrata cheese with Parma ham, and cherry tomatoes would be the starter.
For the main course, the airline had a warm option or a cold option from which passengers could choose. The warm option was Feta-pesto chicken with sundried tomatoes rice, and lemon butter sauce. The cold option was beef steak with potato salad, grilled asparagus, and a chili bearnaise sauce. For this flight, I choose the cold option as I felt it would pair well with the starter.
The desert was a chocolate mousse quenelle with Oreo crumble around it. Everything came out at once on the same tray which was beautifully presented on a tablecloth that the flight attendants laid down before bringing food out.
By the time all the food orders were completed and the food was in front of us, it was roughly an hour after takeoff.
At the time dinner was pretty much cleaned up, it was as dark as it was going to get. Due to the fact that we were headed north during some of the longer months of the year, the light never completely disappeared from the sky. There was still a slight sliver of light on the horizon and it began to slowly come up as we went further north.
I opened the blanket up, put the pillow behind my head, and got as much sleep as possible as redeye flights are never easy to sleep on, no matter how comfortable or quiet the environment is.
Also in the amenity kit was a cool section of stickers that you could put on your chest so the crew would know whether you wanted to be woken up for duty-free, food, or not at all. A neat little idea that could definitely serve a great purpose on longer flights and I think should be included on more airlines as I have been a culprit of sleeping through food in the past.
I woke up after two-and-a-half hours of what I thought was sleep although I am not completely sure. It was 5:20 Iceland time meaning it was just after 1 A.M. back in Detroit, these shorter redeyes are always difficult as it doesn’t give you much time to sleep, but it does get you to your destination really early giving you an entire extra day to enjoy Iceland. There were roughly 40 minutes left in the flight and they were making announcements about starting to descend soon.
The skies were very cloudy so I couldn’t really see anything below, although there wasn’t much below us besides the ocean so I wasn’t disappointed. The flight attendants came around and collected garbage and cleaned the cabin for arrival. It wasn’t more than 20 minutes until we made our approach to Reykjavík/Keflavík Airport.
We landed in Iceland at 6:02 a.m. after a total flight time of five hours and 12 minutes. It was a great flight for me with a lot of firsts; my first 737 MAX flight, my first time in the cabin for the water cannon salute, my first time flying on Icelandair, and my first time being in Iceland.
Most flights arrive in the early morning from North American cities that flew overnight, and then they all leave for Europe roughly 2-3 hours later. then the process repeats in reverse in the early afternoon as flights go from Europe to Iceland, and then onto North American destinations.
Reflecting back on the flight, it was very pleasant and featured multiple AvGeek aspects from the inaugural celebration and the deplaning in Reykjavík/Keflavík, to the amenity kits, headrests on the plane, and the present presentation of the meal. You can definitely tell the difference from a passenger perspective between the 737 MAX and the older models of the 737 as it did feel more roomy and it was noticeably quieter during takeoff.
A video account of this Detroit Inaugural flight can be found below:
Editor’s Note: Icelandair provided AirlineGeeks with the seat on this flight, but this trip report is an honest portrayal of the events and is in no way swayed by that aspect.
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