Icelandair Saga Club Program Review

Icelandair Saga Club Program Review

Like Singapore Airlines, Icelandair serves a small island nation, but it has a big international reputation. The airline has carved a niche for itself in the U.S.-Europe flight market by offering free stopovers in Iceland and frequently featuring super-low cash fares.

Icelandair has shown through its marketing that it’s good for much more than just getting you to and from Iceland, but a lot of frequent flyers discount it because of the lack of major airline and credit card partners.

While this is certainly an issue, especially as Barclays no longer issues a dedicated co-branded Icelandair credit card, Icelandair does still partner with Diners Club, Emirates, Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France. It also recently announced a new partnership with JetBlue. But the airlne’s real strength is offering solid economy class flights to Europe with flexible routing.

Hubs:
  • Keflav­k International Airport
How Can You Use Saga Points?

The main way to use Saga Points is for basic one-way or round-trip awards. You have three possible classes: Economy, Economy Comfort or Saga Class. Economy Comfort and Saga Class roughly correspond to the seats and service you’d expect in business and first class on a domestic flight. Economy Flex is another fare option. It costs more than standard Economy seats, but offers lower change and cancellation fees as well as the ability to upgrade to Economy Comfort with points. One-way awards are available, but round-trip flights offer a slight savings.

It can be a little tricky to figure out how many Saga Points you need for a flight because Icelandair doesn’t put out an award chart. Instead, you plug in where you’d like to go and the cabin you’d like to fly in, and the required mileage is calculated for you. Its great if you only have one flight in mind, but less convenient if you’re trying to figure out the best way to use your points.

saga-awards
Icelandair’s point calculator

The number of Saga Points required for any given trip is mysterious enough that you’ll have to trust the number the calculator spits out. The award pricing doesn’t seem to be exactly distance-based: flying to Europe from either New York or Portland, Oregon costs basically the same, but flights to Reykjavik have more than a 10,000-point difference. Small variations in award pricing of a few hundred points also exist within the same zones.

Though Icelandair doesnt technically offer points plus cash fares, there is an option to use your points to buy gift certificates and use that toward part of a cash booking. This is best avoided as the rates are not great. You’ll get from  $60 for 10,000 points to $203 for 34,000 points.

You can also use your Saga Points to pay for food purchased in-flight at a rate of about one cent per point.

Ways of Saga Points redemption
Saga Points can be redeemed for everything from an award flight to food board

Program Perks:
  • No change fees on Saga or Economy Comfort class tickets
  • One-way awards available
Booking Quirks:
  • Points expire four years after they’re earned
  • Surcharge of ISK 500 (about $3.50) on award bookings
  • Transatlantic awards must be booked by phone
  • Economy Flex awards require a minimum stay of two days or one Sunday
  • Economy awards that aren’t Flex require a Sunday minimum stay
  • Saga Class awards are not available for one-way bookings
  • Economy awards carry a change fee of ISK 3,000 to 12,000 (about $22 to $85)
  • Economy Flex cancellations cost ISK 3,000 (about $22)
  • Only 50% of the points used to purchase non-Flex economy award flights are refunded for cancellations
Best Value Awards:

The best awards on Icelandair are on flights to Iceland from smaller airports in North America that would typically require a connection to a hub. They offer direct flights from Anchorage, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, Orlando, Seattle, Vancouver and Portland, Oregon.

Though the exact points required vary by location, it costs around 60,000 Saga Points roundtrip for a flight to Iceland from these cities. That means you’ll pay about the same for an alliance airline flight, but you’ll get much better routing.

Worst Value Awards:

Icelandair is best for economy travelers. Compared to many other carriers the cost of Icelandair’s premium class cabins is high. New York to Paris roundtrip in Economy Comfort runs 168,000, while Saga Class clocks in at 234,000 points.

Icelandair’s upper class cabins are comparable to domestic or intra-European premium classes, not to typical international business and first class cabins. As a result, an upper class ticket on their good routes from the U.S. to Europe with a free Iceland stopover are an even worse deal than they sound.

Icelandair stopover
Icelandair offers free stopovers in Iceland

The Good Stuff: Upgrades and Elite Status

You can use Saga Points to upgrade cash tickets purchased in Economy Flex to Economy Comfort or from Economy Comfort to Saga Class. Mileage upgrades must be completed at least 24 hours before departure.

Rates for upgrading from Economy Flex to Economy Comfort are roughly the same number of points required to purchase an economy seat with points. Saga Class upgrades from Economy Comfort are twice the miles required for upgrades from Economy to Economy Comfort.

Saga Club Elite Levels and Perks

Each subsequent level includes the perks of the previous level unless stated otherwise.

  • Saga Silver: One complimentary upgrade per year, lounge access, business class check-in, ability to buy Saga Silver status for members spouse, additional baggage allowance, limo service to and from Keflav­k Airport discounted to ISK 4,400 (about $32) when traveling in Saga Class
  • Saga Gold: Unlimited complimentary upgrades, ability to gift Saga Gold status to spouse free of charge, limo service discounted to ISK 4,400 (about $32) when flying any class, free parking at Keflav­k Airport, one free hotel stay in the U.S. or Iceland, free Wi-Fi where available
Associated Credit Cards

Barclays formerly partnered with Icelandair to issue World MasterCard, but they were discontinued in 2014. It’s unclear if they will be revived. Previously, there were no-fee and $39-annual-fee versions with a maximum 20,000 Saga Points sign-up bonus.

  • GLF2

    Saga Club has recently significantly increased the number of points needed for their flights, for example from 60,000 to 106,000 for economy return from Europe to North America. They claim to have “increased the number of available seats and lowered the taxes” but I doubt this offsets almost doubling the points required. Watch out for those gift certificates too. Not only are they a bad deal as pointed out in the article above, but you can only use one at a time and only up to 34,000 points. This is not stated anywhere in the online ticket purchase process and there is even a function to add multiple gift certs when booking. But this does not apply to their own Saga Club gift certs! Iceland Air is still a great airline – inexpensive and fast transfers, but their reward programme is nothing to write home about.

Best Travel Credit Cards
Best Travel Credit Cards Best Travel Credit Cards Best Travel Credit Cards Best Travel Credit Cards Best Travel Credit Cards