Icelandair Airbus A321LRs Will Have New Business Class

Icelandair Airbus A321LRs Will Have New Business Class

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Icelandair will soon add Airbus aircraft to its fleet for the first time. That’s not the only thing that’s changing, as Icelandair will also offer a new business class… but don’t get too excited.

Icelandair is soon acquiring four Airbus A321LRs

In 2023, Icelandair placed an order for 13 Airbus A321XLRs, which is the longest range version of the Airbus A320-family. Icelandair needs these planes in order to replace its aging Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 fleet, since Boeing doesn’t have a narrow body jet with the same range. The catch is that those A321XLRs are only joining Icelandair’s fleet as of 2029.

Separate from the above order, Icelandair is leasing four Airbus A321LRs, as this is a slightly shorter range version of the aircraft, which the airline can get its hands on sooner. The expectation is that the airline will start taking delivery of these A321LRs as of late 2024, so we’re just months from Icelandair flying its first Airbus.

Icelandair will start flying Airbus jets

Icelandair plans new business class, but not flat beds

I’ve been curious to see what kind of a business class product Icelandair would introduce on its Airbus aircraft. Icelandair’s current business class is more like premium economy (or domestic first class within the United States), and consists of recliner seats.

I know many people have wondered if Icelandair would eventually introduce flat beds, including on the upcoming Airbus jets. Well, there’s an update, and it’s not great news.

According to Cranky Flier, Icelandair recently did an analysis, and has still decided not to introduce flat beds. However, Icelandair’s new A321LRs are expected to feature a slightly improved business class product.

Icelandair has reportedly selected a modified version of the Geven Comoda seat for its upcoming A321LRs, with 42-43″ of pitch, 8″ of recline, and leg and foot rests. So this does represent a nice improvement over what you’ll find on the carrier’s current fleet.

Below are some pictures of the generic version of the Geven Comoda seat, which of course doesn’t factor in any Icelandair modifications.

Geven Comoda cabin
Geven Comoda seats
Geven Comoda seat
Geven Comoda specifications

For context on how this compares to Icelandair’s current product, Icelandair otherwise offers around 40″ of pitch, but doesn’t have leg rests. So the new product will be more comfortable, but only marginally so.

Does Icelandair have the right business class strategy?

Icelandair has a unique strategy. In addition to serving the Iceland market, the airline is all about offering one stop service between North America and Europe. Icelandair operates somewhere between a low cost and full service business model, and flying with the airline can often represent good value.

I’ve always been conflicted about the carrier’s business model. On the one hand, Icelandair’s business class pricing is very reasonable, and the airline often has a convenient schedule, given that the carrier has short minimum connection times, and also connects many secondary cities. On the other hand, Icelandair business class is more like premium economy in terms of hard product, so if you frame it that way, the product is a bit less spectacular.

Personally I’ve long felt that Icelandair should introduce flat beds in business class. After all, this could be done with fairly opportunity cost with a couple of different options.

For example, Icelandair could install the Collins Aerospace Diamond Parallel seat, as you’ll find on many airlines, like American’s A321Ts. These seats have just 43″ of pitch (since the footwell is to the side of the seat in front), so it’s basically the same pitch as Icelandair’s new product.

American A321T business class

A staggered configuration wouldn’t take up that much more pitch, like what you’ll find in FlyDubai’s Boeing 737 MAX 8 business class.

FlyDubai 737 MAX business class

The truth is that many people can’t sleep in a recliner seat, so would avoid Icelandair business class on an overnight flight if there’s another option. I think the airline could generate significantly more business class revenue with a product that actually allowed people to recline fully.

Now, admittedly the issue is that transitioning from recliners to flat beds would be quite a costly undertaking. The airline will have limited upside from this unless there are flat beds throughout the fleet, and that’s something Icelandair probably doesn’t want to spend the money on. I suspect that’s also why the airline thinks that flat beds on new aircraft just aren’t a worthwhile investment.

Bottom line

Later this year, Icelandair will begin taking delivery of four Airbus A321LRs, which is an exciting development for the airline. I was curious what kind of a business class product the airline would introduce, and now we know — it’ll be more spacious than the existing product, but it won’t consist of flat beds, sadly.

What do you make of Icelandair’s Airbus A321LR plans? Would flat beds change your desire to fly Icelandair business class?

Conversations (29)
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  1. Thomas Guest

    I've flown their product several times and I think it's perfect. It doesn't need lie flat seats. Most of the flights are 6 to 8 hours. By the time you get settled, have the meal, you'll realistically only get 2 hours of sleep anyway. Then the European connection is in the morning and likely to be 4 hours or so. It's a nice option for a nice flight at half the cost of a lie flat bed I won't use anyway.

  2. Robert D Guest

    As someone who flies SEA-KEF occasionally, I got excited when I saw that headline. What a letdown.

  3. David Lamb Guest

    Let’s establish one thing: Icelandair does not have “Business Class”. They call their product “Saga Premium”, a recognition that their product is a premium product but not a true J class.

    The longest flight FI operates is 8 hours, and there are only a handful of those. The point the OP makes about people not wanting to fly FI eastbound misses the point: FI passengers are not flying J class.

    If FI improves Saga Premium,...

    Let’s establish one thing: Icelandair does not have “Business Class”. They call their product “Saga Premium”, a recognition that their product is a premium product but not a true J class.

    The longest flight FI operates is 8 hours, and there are only a handful of those. The point the OP makes about people not wanting to fly FI eastbound misses the point: FI passengers are not flying J class.

    If FI improves Saga Premium, expect it to be no better than any Premium Economy across the NAT. When you put that into perspective, Saga Premium is a very solid competitor. I have flown Saga Premium. It is a very solid product at a decent price point. I also get to go to or via Iceland. That is it itself a great plus.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Narrow minded people like this is why woke and Karen is everywhere.

      So how would you establish US First and Euro Business?

      Its like saying Big Mac is not a burger because somewhere in your mind it doesn't look like Shake Shack.

  4. T- Guest

    Good for Icelandair. Not every airline needs fully lie flat seats. They do take up more space. This airline is doing its own thing and it’s working. Enough said.

  5. Exit Row Seats Guest

    I just booked tickets on Iceland for September. Looking at the seat map, only a few exit row seats have some legroom, the rest look like sardines unless you move to the front with an outrageous surcharge.
    Glad to see them upping their game from the backpack and flip flop league.

  6. E. Parks Guest

    Why not a cradle seat, ala United’s 777 and 744 Business Class seats of the late 90s and early 2000s? I thought those seats were quite comfortable to sit in (many lie flats are designed more to sleep on than to sit in) as well as sleep in. A happy compromise perhaps?

    I don't know if any company still makes them or what the costs would be relative to lie-flat seats. Configuration on 737, 757 and A321 would be 2-2

    1. SMC422 Guest

      Right! Like just the late 90s to early 2000s style business class that wasn’t amazing superb but still ok for that era and this type of airline that usually focuses on trans-Atlantic flights less than 6 hours long.

  7. echino Diamond

    Ben, write about Icelandair business class availability using Alaska miles at the Premium Economy price. I searched extensively and seen zero availability - not a single seat on any route.

    1. Charles Guest

      I also find that award availability and options with AS mileage plan to Europe has degraded :( BA is a useless option with the surcharges.

      But I find that flying an Icelandair RT to rack up the qualifying miles is great. And I totally agree having just flown a SEA-KEF-CDG last week that the J seats are nothing to write home about and I also think they could increase revenue. I don't think they...

      I also find that award availability and options with AS mileage plan to Europe has degraded :( BA is a useless option with the surcharges.

      But I find that flying an Icelandair RT to rack up the qualifying miles is great. And I totally agree having just flown a SEA-KEF-CDG last week that the J seats are nothing to write home about and I also think they could increase revenue. I don't think they need to deploy across the fleet but deploying on specific long haul legs (like the west coast) would definitely work. They have been flying multiple 757 per day from Seattle for years, so there's enough demand to position a few frames for those longer night flights.

      Side note, I decided to try the "low calorie" meal option on that trip. Big mistake . The lunches were just a big salad with a side salad. Dry and flavorless. Crew had no clue for any of the 4 legs what that option was supposed to look like.

  8. Jcx Guest

    This is not the reason people choose Icelandair, they are not a premium offering and I beleive what they have caters better for the market they’re in.

    1. CrocDoc1 New Member

      I totally agree. Plus, the flight times from the eastern half of the US are not long enough to need a flat bed IMO.

  9. Likes-to-fly Member

    I fly long-haul exclusively flat-bed, and not only because of sleep, but because of health in general -- getting older, it is good to having feet up, stretched back, lay flat etc. Upright seat is tolerable for up to two, three hours. Which for most European flights will do.
    Recently with my wife we flew United Business from west to east coast and after so many hours we were quite exhausted, to put it...

    I fly long-haul exclusively flat-bed, and not only because of sleep, but because of health in general -- getting older, it is good to having feet up, stretched back, lay flat etc. Upright seat is tolerable for up to two, three hours. Which for most European flights will do.
    Recently with my wife we flew United Business from west to east coast and after so many hours we were quite exhausted, to put it mildly, despite relatively comfortable seats.
    Icelandair will not see us anytime soon :-)

    1. CrocDoc1 New Member

      I mean no disrespect, but most people cannot fly "exclusively flat-bed." So I would be thankful for having the resources and ability to travel in that manner. And, of course, anyone flying on a US-based airline should never expect comfort...or service for that matter, LOL.

    2. Likes-to-fly Member

      20 years ago we flew to Australia from Europe with Lauda Air, 22 hrs plus in Economy (with a short stop for refuelling), it was... well...bad.
      But after years of saving, this was at that time all what we could afford. J class was a Sci-Fi for us.
      Forward many years, we worked our asses off and we are thankful to be able to afford comfort now -- full-flat seats are something worth investing in.

    3. Lasloy Guest

      I don't think planet earth will be seeing much more of you both soon :)

  10. Traveling Mike Guest

    Most of Icelandair flights are 4-5 hours long. You really do not need a lie flat bed for that.

  11. SMC422 Guest

    Feel like at the best, they could have installed “old style” transatlantic business class recliners ala old KLM

  12. yoloswag420 Guest

    I don't know, I guess maybe I'm just not their demographic. Maybe they have run the numbers and they know their target customers are cost conscious customers that are ok with a subpremium experience.

    Something like West Coast to KEF is still 7+ hours, I wouldn't be very happy in a recliner for that long. Even the generic 2-2 lieflats would be better. China Airlines, Starlux, Korean Air, and many other airlines have this on...

    I don't know, I guess maybe I'm just not their demographic. Maybe they have run the numbers and they know their target customers are cost conscious customers that are ok with a subpremium experience.

    Something like West Coast to KEF is still 7+ hours, I wouldn't be very happy in a recliner for that long. Even the generic 2-2 lieflats would be better. China Airlines, Starlux, Korean Air, and many other airlines have this on their regional narrowbodies for much shorter flights, I don't see why Icelandair can't do the same here.

  13. Andrew Guest

    This is why I will always defend TAP Portugal. Same kind of business model but offers lie-flat seats and good food.

    1. StevieMIA Guest

      This should be the way to equip the LR, the Vantage throne seats are not very modern or elegant, but it's the right kind of product, or at least they should've tried the Collins Diamond seats in a 2x2 configuration.

  14. StevieMIA Guest

    They could at least come up with 2x2 lie-flat seats, nobody is expecting individual suits from Iceland air but they could have make an improvement and introduce a better business class for this new aircraft, the A321LR is amazing, most cabins on the XLR will be very modern and innovative. This could've been a nice opportunity for them to offer a better product on their longest routes. I understand they're not AA or Iberia, they...

    They could at least come up with 2x2 lie-flat seats, nobody is expecting individual suits from Iceland air but they could have make an improvement and introduce a better business class for this new aircraft, the A321LR is amazing, most cabins on the XLR will be very modern and innovative. This could've been a nice opportunity for them to offer a better product on their longest routes. I understand they're not AA or Iberia, they might not need suites but a better business class would've been a success. This Geven seat looks snazzy and modern but it's a shame they failed to see the potential of using a different cabin on this aircraft.

    They could offer a proper lie-flat business class for flights over 7h and aim to operate some 8h routes, it would fit them. This is very short sighted of them. This airline has lot of potential. Some will say this seat is more than enough for their kind of service and network but they could stand out more. Very disappointing.

  15. Laura Greenberg Guest

    As a west coaster we often look at the great business class prices on Iceland air and sigh, then pass due to not being able to sleep well in recliner seats for a 12plus hour flight. If they added lie flat seats, we would fly them in a heartbeat.

    1. Retired Gambler Guest

      Not a 12 hour flight from anywhere in US. Seattle is (as I recall) around 7-8 hours max. Trust me I have flown Saga Premium a number of times and enjoyed it. Yes no sleeper seat but the service is comparable to many airlines in J. Personally I get better service on Icelandair in Saga Premium than in business class (with lay flat seats) on any US domestic carrier. Also the Saga Lounge at KEF...

      Not a 12 hour flight from anywhere in US. Seattle is (as I recall) around 7-8 hours max. Trust me I have flown Saga Premium a number of times and enjoyed it. Yes no sleeper seat but the service is comparable to many airlines in J. Personally I get better service on Icelandair in Saga Premium than in business class (with lay flat seats) on any US domestic carrier. Also the Saga Lounge at KEF is one of my favorite lounges in the world.

      I'm also probably the outlier in that I sleep much better sitting up and reclined than I do on a lay flat bed.

  16. Bobo Guest

    Flat beds would not matter to me. From the east coast, the flight to Keflavik is too short to get a good night sleep. Period. They are making a smart move by just upgrading their premium class a bit.

    Also, although the Keflavik airport is small, changing planes is usually a pain because of its high percentage of buses to remote stands rather than real gates. Last 2 times it has been walk in the rain from the bus to the plane.

  17. Rusty Guest

    Do you know when/if Sega Class will be bookable again using AS miles? There has been a temp disabled message AS website for a long time now. Thanks

  18. Jason Guest

    Most flights on them are 4-5 hours long, with the longest maybe being -7 hours. Their flights are generally full, especially during the summer. In order to put in lie flat seats, they'd have to take out seats. Unless they thought they could charge more to make up for fewer seats, they wont do this. It really doesnt fit with their business model.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Jason -- I hear you, though I'd counter with two points.

      First of all, yes their flights are full in peak summer (we're talking four months at most), but they're very much not consistently full in winter. I think a better product could help with premium airfare for the rest of the year. Second of all, the Thompson Diamond product could be installed with no real opportunity cost, with 43" of pitch.

    2. S_LEE Gold

      Thompson Vantage is available at 43" pitch, but it's 2-2/1-1 configuration, which means the density's less than 3/4 of 2-2 recliners.
      Also, the front row of a lie-flat seat needs a lot more length than 43". It needs at least 70" length to make a flat bed in the front row.

      The exact number varies by the number of seats but in general, Icelandair would have to increase the biz class fare to 150%...

      Thompson Vantage is available at 43" pitch, but it's 2-2/1-1 configuration, which means the density's less than 3/4 of 2-2 recliners.
      Also, the front row of a lie-flat seat needs a lot more length than 43". It needs at least 70" length to make a flat bed in the front row.

      The exact number varies by the number of seats but in general, Icelandair would have to increase the biz class fare to 150% than now to compensate for the lower density of Thompsom Vantage seats compared to 2-2 recliners.

      Also, 2-2 config Collins Diamond seats normally have 60-62" pitch, which is still 1.4 times more than the recliners. And considering the length lost for the front row, the actual airfare would have to be 150%.
      Trust me, I design aircraft interiors.

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Andrew Guest

This is why I will always defend TAP Portugal. Same kind of business model but offers lie-flat seats and good food.

2
Retired Gambler Guest

Not a 12 hour flight from anywhere in US. Seattle is (as I recall) around 7-8 hours max. Trust me I have flown Saga Premium a number of times and enjoyed it. Yes no sleeper seat but the service is comparable to many airlines in J. Personally I get better service on Icelandair in Saga Premium than in business class (with lay flat seats) on any US domestic carrier. Also the Saga Lounge at KEF is one of my favorite lounges in the world. I'm also probably the outlier in that I sleep much better sitting up and reclined than I do on a lay flat bed.

1
CrocDoc1 New Member

I mean no disrespect, but most people cannot fly "exclusively flat-bed." So I would be thankful for having the resources and ability to travel in that manner. And, of course, anyone flying on a US-based airline should never expect comfort...or service for that matter, LOL.

1
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