I may not have seen the northern lights during my recent trip to Iceland, but my return flight on Icelandair’s northern lights inspired plane, “Hekla Aurora”, just about made up for the disappointment.
As I waited to board my flight from Keflavik back to Birmingham, I reflected on my short break in Iceland. It had it all – great food, scenery, memorable daytrips to the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon and even the weather played ball as it was snowy but not too cold. The only thing that would have enhanced my trip would have been a sighting of the famous northern lights (or aurora borealis).
So imagine my surprise and delight when I found out I was to be on Icelandair’s new northern lights-themed special edition plane, Hekla Aurora. I counted myself very lucky, as the airline has a fleet of 21 Boeing 757s that fly from the island’s only international airport at Keflavik to 39 destinations across North America and Europe. 21/1 shots don’t normally come off for me!
Each plane is named after one of the country’s volcanoes – in December 2014 the Hekla plane (named after one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes) flew to Norwich and was given a makeover to become Hekla Aurora, with its northern lights livery. The outside of the plane is midnight blue, with bright greens and sky blues shimmering above snowy peaked volcanoes. It’s definitely an improvement on the airline’s regular livery of white, blue and yellow which is not a million miles away from that of Ryanair.
As my camera’s battery had long since died, I fumbled dopily with my iPhone and took some pretty poor photos of the outside before sleepwalking on board (it was a 7.50am departure).
As I shuffled to my seat, I noticed the plane’s interior shimmered with pink, purple, green and blue mood lighting as if the northern lights were dancing away above me. The airline say this recreates the atmosphere you get when you see the northern lights, although I wouldn’t know about that :(. Dreamy music by local bands is played before take-off, adding to the laid-back vibe.
The idea behind Hekla Aurora is to promote Icelandair’s #MyStopover campaign. You can fly between Europe and USA/Canada with a stopover in Iceland, and stay for up to seven days at no extra cost. Our flight from Birmingham took just 2 hours 30 minutes, and it takes 5-6 hours to get to New York, so is a good way to break the journey up and see a magical little country on the way.
The downside to this is that I can see Iceland becoming swamped with tourists pretty soon (some may say it already is). It was already a pretty popular destination but now it makes sense for anyone coming from North America to spend a few days based in the tiny capital, Reykjavik, before moving on to see the rest of Europe. The queue for the bag-drop for Icelandair’s morning flights at Keflavik was horrendous, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it through security to my departure gate on time at one point.
You can watch a cool video here on Icelandair’s website, which shows the making of Hekla Aurora and shows the finished article in flight and from the inside. You can also see where this special plane is scheduled to fly next. Icelandair has no plans yet to stop flying Hekla Aurora, so hurry up and get booking.