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geyser

An Icelandic geyser. There are hundreds. (Wikimedia)

We are in Paris, where we will stay for a month (sing it now: “April in Paris”). We flew here via Icelandair.

That’s right: Icelandair.

routes

Looking down from above Iceland,  Icelandair’s Great Circle routes makes perfect sense.

Flying to Europe over Iceland makes sense if you utilize a world globe rather than a map. Stretch the shortest possible string around the globe from Portland to Paris. It’ll loop right over Iceland. Cartographers know it as a great circle route. Icelandair discovered it long ago and they’ve capitalized on it ever since.

(This link shows the shortest Portland-to-Paris route on the Great Circle Mapper.)

All Icelandair flights stop in Reykjavik. Icelandair has long promoted a “Stopover” program there, encouraging travelers to spend as many as seven days on the island without paying extra for the flight. The program perked along for fifty years without much trouble until 2014, when Icelandair saturated social media with the #MyStopover campaign. The campaign was a rollicking success. Happily torpid Icelanders were gobsmacked by the response. Our experience (which follows) is an example of how gobsmacked they really were.

(Isn’t that cool? I got to use gobsmacked twice!)

keflavik

Keflavik International Airport

We arrived at Keflavík International Airport, the airline’s hub, two hours late (headwinds) and ran to the Departures monitor. Our Paris flight wasn’t listed. (Really? Paris?) We got a gate number along with an apology at an information desk, and sprinted to our gate. Which was downstairs. Where there were no chairs. Nor a waiting area. Nor heat. Two hundred people lined up on frigid metal stairs, waiting to show their boarding passes to the single attendant at the gate.

Eventually we were whisked outside where swirls of snow whipped around waiting buses. We dashed to ours and huddled inside for ten minutes like Arctic penguins, our backs to the open doors. Decorative drifts accumulated at our feet.

boarding (Medium)

No jetways here.

The bus finally underway, we arrived at our 757 and queued outside to hike up the stairs. Inside the plane, people stuffed oversized luggage into overhead compartments while attendants exhorted us to “Hurry along, people are waiting in the snow.”

deicing

De-icing the wings

Eventually the doors closed. The cabin began to warm. We thawed while they de-iced the wings. Three hours later we exited the plane in Parisian sunshine.

Would we fly Icelandair again? In spite of all the snafus, the answer is probably yes, and we might take them up on the Stopover program too. It’s a different world up there; we’d be foolish to pass it up.

They’ll have heated gates by then, I’m sure.

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