LONDON — Earlier this month, the Icelandic low-cost carrier Wow Air announced that for a limited time it would offer one-way tickets from the West Coast of the US to Europe, and vice versa, for as low as AUD$92.40 (US$69.99).
At the time of writing, some of the airline’s best fares from London include $227, to Boston, San Francisco, Miami, New York, and Washington, DC; $244 to Los Angeles and Toronto; $260 to Montreal; and $293 to Pittsburgh. Flights also depart from Edinburgh, Scotland, and Bristol, England.
As the sale, available for one-way flights until April 5, is an effort to expand Wow’s US customer base, the flights from Europe to the US aren’t discounted as heavily.
Furthermore, some of the amenities typically included with a plane fare — including bottled water, food, and even entertainment — aren’t part of the deal. The airline, however, is up-front about its no-frills flights.
“This way you won’t have problems with expectations,” Wow Air founder and CEO Skuli Mogensen said. “That’s why we tell them to bring their own food, water, and download a movie on your iPad or laptop ahead of the flight.”
And with prices like the above, the airline is still worth a look, especially with the European low-cost carrier Norwegian Air also expected to launch $91 transatlantic flights later this year.
We asked two travel experts who have flown Wow Air, James Dozer of Travel Codex, who bagged a $130 one-way flight from Los Angeles to Reykjavik, Iceland, and frequent flier and travel expert Gilbert Ott, who runs the air-miles site God Save the Points, to share their experiences.
From quirky purple sick bags to iPads for rent, see what it’s really like to fly with Wow Air, and determine for yourself whether it’s worth the hype.
Dozer originally reviewed the flight here.
Icelandic low-cost carrier WOW Air is currently offering cheap tickets to the US from Europe (and vice versa), including flights from London to New York for $229. We asked two people who have grabbed a ticket to share their experiences.
According to James Dozer, who booked a $130 one-way flight from Los Angeles to Reykjavik, buying tickets with WOW Air is ‘actually pretty easy.’
‘Their website was simple and functional and allowed me to search several days at a time to find the cheapest fares,’ he wrote on Travel Codex. ‘Once I found my flights and travel dates, I paid for my flight tickets and had the option of purchasing additional services such as checked bags and seat selections. Their website even allows you to book tours and airport transfers.’
The check-in counters were open early, assisting passengers three hours before the flight. However, this didn’t prevent issues with seat selection.
‘If you already pre-paid and selected your seats, now would be a good time to double-check your seats as WOW Air’s IT systems are notoriously horrible,’ Dozer said. ‘Even though I confirmed our seats that morning for our flight, when we arrived at LAX, our seats were screwed up. We were no longer assigned to our seats and someone else had already checked into one of our seats. Unfortunately for us, the only two seats together were located in the back of the plane.’
He added that two other passengers seemed to be facing the same issue, and that there have been many reports of the same problem online. However, the WOW Air Station Manager was ‘awesome’ and helped to resolve the issue.
‘Seeing that we were disappointed with our re-assigned seats, she proactively paged the passenger that was assigned to my selected seat and politely asked her to switch seats with us. Luckily, the girl didn’t care and we were back to our original purchased seats. Fortunately, this worked out in this case but I don’t know what would have happened if the girl said ‘no’.'”
A small carry-on bag, measuring 42 x 32 x 25cm including wheels and handles, and weighing maximum of 10 kg, can be taken on board for free. Dozer also said you can take a small personal item — like a purse or a backpack.
A photo posted by Jessica Brown (@jessicolika) on
Guests can pay extra for a larger carry-on bag, which, for flights over four hours, can cost from $51 depending on when it’s purchased. They can also put a 20kg bag in the hold from $62.70 online (or $87.45 for flights over eight hours), though again, this price goes up at check-in or at the gate.
Gilbert Ott, who runs the air miles site God Save the Points, said: ‘When they first launched you were virtually forced to pay extra because the carry on allowance was so low. Now they have doubled it. You really can fly one of these unreal deals without paying extra.’
If you need more space, consider sharing a bag with a friend.
‘Truth be told, my larger backpack was about two inches too big but they did not seem to notice (or care) at LAX or KEF,’ Dozer said. ‘However, I did see some other people who were flagged for having over-sized bags and they had to pay a fee.'”
After the problems at check-in, Dozer wasn’t surprised when boarding and departure were delayed by about an hour.
content=”‘Boarding started with those needing special assistance, followed by seats in reverse order (higher numbered seats boarded first). Despite the late boarding, the entire boarding process was smooth and orderly and we were ready to push back within 20 minutes,’ he said.”
If you don’t pay ahead, you’ll be assigned a seat, and you could even get lucky with an XL or XXL for free if your flight isn’t busy. However, if you’re travelling with a group, there’s no guarantee you’ll sit together.
‘If you’re travelling with a partner you’ll want to pay for the seat assignment, but for a solo traveller it’s amazing value,’Ott said.
The seats are in a 2 x 4 x 2 layout. According to the website, it costs a minimum of $13.19 to pre-book a standard seat (31 inches of leg rooms) online for a flight over four hours, from $51 for an XL seat (32 inches of leg room) and $62.70 for an XXL seat, which offers 35 inches of leg room. These prices go up for flights over eight hours. “
According to Dozer, not all WOW seats are created equal.
‘In fact, not even all of their Airbus A330s are configured the same way, so don’t even bother with the seating chart on SeatGuru.com. Just follow the seating chart on WOW Air’s own website when selecting your seats,’ he said.
Dozer suggested picking a window seat if flying to Iceland at night. ‘On my flight, we were able to get a glimpse of the Northern lights from the windows.'”
According to WOW Air, the planes have ‘a generous seat width and pitch.’
content=”Dozer said the legroom ‘wasn’t bad’ and there was more than expected.
However, he said: ‘Storage-wise, other than the single, seatback pockets, the seats lacked storage spaces for your small electronics/personal items. I had to store the majority of my things in my backpack underneath the seat in front of me. And lastly, the seats did not have adjustable headrest to provide your head and neck with any support throughout your flight.’
He also said the seats were hard and uncomfortable, meaning people were often walking around the plane.”
Everything is bright and quirky, from the plane itself…”
“…to the on-board essentials…”
“…and the cabin crew.”
However, food and drink aren’t included in the price, despite being a necessity on a transatlantic journey.
‘During the flight, the flight attendants did walk the cabin frequently and conducted several passes with the food and beverage carts,’ Dozer said.”
A range of items can be purchased from the duty-free catalogue on board, which includes a rather extensive in-flight menu including the likes of sandwiches, pizza, snacks, and both soft and alcoholic drinks.
content=”‘The food and beverage prices weren’t too terrible if you wanted to buy some food onboard,’ Dozer said. ‘My friend and I ate prior to boarding but we got hungry about four hours in.'”
‘We each ended up buying a hot chicken risotto dinner which was quite tasty. The chicken was moist and the risotto was a little soggy but the seasoning was flavorful.’
There is no personal in-flight entertainment or WiFi on board. However, travellers can rent iPads preloaded with games and films.
‘The selections looked pretty outdated so you’re better off sleeping or making friends with the other passengers,’ Dozer said. He suggested coming prepared not only with water and snacks, but with your own iPad full of movies.
Electrical outlets were provided underneath the seats.
However, no pillows or blankets were provided.
‘The climate controls did fluctuate frequently during flight,’ Dozer said. ‘It would go from Arctic cold to mildly hot every couple of hours. I would recommend packing a light jacket in your carry-on bag just in case.'”
Before you book, you should add up all the additional fees and costs to see if your total price will be cheaper than travelling with a traditional carrier, according to Dozer.
While his ticket price may have been $139 to Iceland, there were no $139 fares for his return.
‘The cheapest return fare I could find for a day that worked for me was $369.’ With all fees and food included, his $139 flight to Iceland ended up costing $677.09 return.
At the end of the day, Dozer wasn’t sure if the experience had been worth it.
‘Don’t get me wrong, that’s still an incredibly cheap price to get to Iceland, but I don’t know if it was actually worth it,’ Dozer said.
‘It was extremely annoying having to pack so lightly and worrying if my bags were gonna fit within such size constraints. The seats were not that comfortable and the in-flight experience wasn’t all that great. But most importantly, even though it was only a few bucks here and there, I really hate being nickeled and dimed for everything. For me, I value the convenience of not having to fill up my water bottle beforehand or paying extra for a cup of coffee (or two) on-board.’
Bur Ott feels that if you know what to expect, WOW Air is a ‘cheerful’ way to fly cheaply, particularly if you make use of their stopovers in Iceland.
‘I find the greatest value in the ticket to be in the free Iceland stopovers. Being able to see Europe or the US while also crossing off one of the trendiest destinations for free on the side is pretty damn cool,’ Ott said.
‘It’s a short flight from virtually anywhere so eat in the airport, download some shows, settle in and enjoy a cheap but very cheerful ride.’
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