Using Frequent Flyer Miles To Go To Iceland: Delta JFK- Reykjavik (KEF) Review In BusinessElite

Jul 16, 2013

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Last week, I was able to find some l0w-level award space on Delta’s seasonal route from New York (JFK) to Reykjavik, Iceland (KEF), which spurred my last minute trip to Iceland. After burning 100,000 SkyMiles and $47 for BusinessElite, I was booked and ready to go.

Decent Low-Level availability
Decent low-level availability JFK-KEF.

Delta offers seasonal summer service which runs through September 1, from New York-Reykjavik onboard their 757-200ER planes which feature 16 BusinessElite seats, 25 Economy Comfort, and 130 Economy Seats. I was scheduled to depart at 11:49pm, but due to a late arriving aircraft from Los Angeles, I was delayed about an hour, which meant more time to spend in the Delta’s new T4 Sky Club/Sky Deck.

Delta BusinessElite JFK-KEF on 757-200ER.
Delta BusinessElite JFK-KEF on 757-200ER.

Once boarding began, I was one of the first ones on and I made it to my seat. Delta’s 757 BusinessElite seats do not feature full lie-flat seats yet, but they are supposed to be upgrading them to lie-flat seats within the next couple of years.

Kept my glass filled during boarding!
Kept my glass filled during boarding!

I had a great crew on this flight, who offered me two pre-departrue beverages so I soon forgot about the departure delay.

Westin Heavenly Bedding.
Westin Heavenly Bedding.

This was my first flight with the new Westin Heavenly bedding and I was not impressed. My flight did feature the new amenity kit by Tumi and Malin + Goetz which included Malin + Goetz’s Neroli Hand & Body Lotion and Lip Moisturizer, a Tumi eye mask, socks, shoe horn, shoe polish, comb, dental kit, tissues, antibacterial wipes, earplugs and a pen. A definite improvement here and since I had no seatmate, I was able to snag an extra :-).

Side by side comparison of Delta's new bedding (left) and old bedding (right)
Side-by-side comparison of Delta’s new bedding (left) and old bedding (right)

When it comes to in-flight entertainment, there are personal TV’s at every seat but the selections on this flight were not the best. The movies were pretty limited and there were no real award winners/nominees. It was worth noting that since this flight is operated by a 757-200ER there is WiFi onboard and I was able to use the internet while 100 miles from the US, so a couple hours on each flight.

First Course Options.
First Course Options.

The outbound flight offered an express dining option but I opted for the full dinner service because it’s my job to survey all aspects of a flight (much to the chagrin of my personal trainer). The First Course included shrimp with avocado, pumpkin bisque, and a Caesar salad.

Shrimp with avocado and caesar salad to start.

For the main course, the options included a chicken breast filled with cornbread and chicken sausage stuffing with chicken gravy and haricots verts with almonds; strozzapreti pasta with eggplant and tomato sauce or a chilled deli plate with beef tenderloin and gravlax.

Main Course choices
Main Course choices

I opted for the chicken breast filled with cornbread and chicken sausage stuffing with chicken gravy and haricots verts with almonds. The chicken was pretty bland (or maybe that was just my tastebuds after a couple drinks), but certainly edible. The cream sauce was a bit heavy so I tried to scrape that to the side, but all today it was a satisfactory meal even though the presentation wasn’t too chic.

Opted for the chicken.
I opted for the chicken.

The dessert choices included either a selection of fine cheeses with fresh fruit or carrot cake – I passed here, opting instead to pass out and get several hours of sleep.

Dessert selection.
Dessert selection.

Prior to landing, the options were seasonal fresh fruit or honey almond granola cereal as well with some assorted breakfast breads. I generally hate airplane breakfasts and I was exhausted, so I slept through this and woke up about 15 minutes before landing.

Pre-Arrival meal.
Pre-Arrival meal choices.


Outside the airport-reading to hit the ground running.
Outside the airport, ready to hit the ground running.

The Return KEF-JFK
My return flight left Iceland at 11:10am and landed at JFK around 1pm with the time change. I had gotten a rental car the day before and arranged to drop it off at the airport – saving myself a $110 taxi ride from downtown Reykjavik to the airport (taxis, amongst other things are extremely expensive in Iceland). The rental car drop off is a short walk/really short shuttle ride from the terminal and I was able to print my boarding pass at a kiosk since I wasn’t checking any luggage. However, I wish I would have gotten my pass at the SkyPriority check-in lane, because the Reykjavik airport security folks were there asking the standard “Have you been with your luggage since you packed it” questions and since I went to the kiosk I got corralled at the gate at boarding for 20 minutes while they inefficiently asked a huge line of people the questions. I was one of the last people to board because I got stuck at the end of the line – and I hate waiting in lines!

The Reykjavik airport is pretty well organized and security/immigration were a breeze. They recommended showing up 3 hours prior to departure, but I got there 1 hour and 50 minutes and had plenty of time to kill. There is only one lounge before you go to the US terminal (Iceland Air) and from my understanding, Delta BusinessElite passengers do not get access and there was no lounge in the US terminal.

Onboard Reykjavik to New York, they served lunch  and the choices were either chicken, beef or a pasta dish. I opted for the chicken and it was decent, although it looked nasty.

Starting lunch with some appetizers.

To begin, I was served some appetizers which consisted of shrimp, smoked salmon, and a small salad. For my main entree I opted for the chicken with caramelized onions and it was pretty tasty.

Chicken dish for lunch on my return KEF-JFK.
Chicken dish for lunch on my return KEF-JFK.

Something about the seats in BusinessElite that I would point out, is that since this is a 757-200ER aircraft there is not a separate crew rest area, so they use BusinessElite seat 1A as the pilot rest, and there is a curtain that protrudes out into 2A (my seat) which isn’t a big deal but not great to be behind so just a head’s up. I also don’t recommend row 1 because the foot space is curtailed by the bulkhead, so I’d recommend rows 3/4 on this plane.

I wouldn't recommend seat 2A due to pilot rest curtain which isn't a big deal but not great to be behind.
I wouldn’t recommend seat 2A due to the pilot rest curtain which protrudes.

Was It Worth It?
I got a bunch of comments that redeeming 100,000 SkyMiles for NYC to Reykjavik was a waste since that route is basically the same distance to fly to San Francisco. (JFK-KEF is 2,586 miles and JFK-SFO is only 8 miles less at 2,578 miles). Yes, low-level BusinessElite awards to SFO are only 60,000 miles, but they are nearly impossible to find. Bottom line is that I wanted to fly business class (6 hours on a plane is still a long time, especially with delays and as someone who is 6’7″ , I really value not sitting in coach). I actually find the recliner seats comfortable and I was able to get several hours of sleep on both flights, which enhanced my 5 night trip to Iceland. So in the end, I saved cash outlay and had enjoyable travel for 12+ hours in business class for 100,000 SkyMiles and $47 and I’m happy with it. And in the end, as long as you are happy with your redemption, nothing else really matters!

I’ll be writing up my full Iceland experience including horseback riding, whale watching, delicious food and incredible waterfalls and geysers throughout the week. Five nights was a nice primer to Iceland, but I can’t wait to go back and spend more time exploring the rest of the fascinating country.

Tip: If you need to top of up your SkyMiles, Delta has been emailing a lot of targeted offers. To see if you’re eligible for a 45,000 SkyMile bonus on the Delta Gold card, put your info into the Cardmatch tool and see if the offer populates (as I wrote about here).

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