Icelandic Low Cost Carrier Wow Air has established their new Los Angeles to Reykjavik route and if you think that you heard it all when it comes to nickel and dime a customer, think again!
I have seen plenty of low cost carriers and personally flown on EasyJet, Spirit, Southwest, Air Asia plus a few more and this Wow Air is really borderline when it comes to their extra charges and restrictions.
The first time I heard about this new route was on L.A. Magazine last week (see here) and what drew me to it was the headline saying the airline was offering 99$ one way flights from LAX to KEF.
I visited the Wow Air website (access here) the same day and the cheapest I could find was 279$ so well beyond that promotional price. But one of the reporters was on their inaugural flight so I kept reading to learn about the product.
$99 one-way is great and all, but like most airlines these days, here’s where it all starts to add up: Baggage. You get one carry-on bag for free (that’s including your purse, ladies) so long as it weighs 11 pounds or under. After that, it starts at $39 per bag, and $48 at the counter. For checked luggage, one bag (max 44 pounds) will cost you around $58 online or $76 at the gate. Emotional baggage, per usual, is free. I’m not sure if it was because this was the inaugural flight or if my small group was invited, but no one weighed my carry-on luggage. Good thing, too, because it felt like it weighed 80 pounds. I’ve heard various stories where some counters are more diligent than others, so next time, leave the lava rocks at home and travel light or pay up.
Basic boarding at LAX: They call chunks of rows to board at one time, starting from the front back. At Keflavik, it was more of a free-for-all.
As mentioned before these promotional prices are gone now and just now I checked the website again and the lowest price is 329$ tax included for the one way. I would expect that check in baggage has to be paid for, even legacy airlines do this nowadays but I’d think that the carry on would have at least a reasonable limit. Well, think again!
The author got lucky here. I’d not expect to get away with heavily overweight baggage on a low cost carrier. The only time where I was really lucky they didn’t make me check it in was on Tigerair but to be fair I paid already for the bag so it was no loss for them and saved me time waiting for the bag delivery.
The buns on the flight attendants are on point. And their perfect make-up will make any air-weary traveler feel pretty shitty after more than eight hours in the air. But damn they are nice. Super accommodating at every juncture, from helping you find a seat to serving drinks and sandwiches from the carts. I even witnessed a pretty elaborate jewelry sale, like an in-air duty free shop, across the aisle on the flight back.
Having good flight attendants can make such a big difference on a flight just as having bad ones can make even a First Class flight feel like the gutter. Airlines should really take note!
Expecting the worst for $99-$199 one way, I was pleasantly surprised by the plane. WOW is using new Airbus A330-300 aircraft for the West Coast flights, which are clean, wide, and comfortable. All seats are economy—no, guy behind me thinking they’ll bump you to “first class,” there is no first or business class—but you can upgrade for a bit more legroom. … To choose any seat online, it’s around $12; to upgrade to XL, or 34-inches of legroom, it starts at $49; and for those super room seats, prices start at $58.
The website shows that these flights are operated by Air Europa. Wow Air started flying in 2012 so they certainly aren’t newcomers to the business but considering these are A330 my best guess is they wet lease the planes from Air Europa. Most certainly the flights do not earn any credit with Air Europa’s SUMA program.
Because this is base-model flying, there is no entertainment, not even Wi-Fi. But there are outlets for electronics between each seat, so download a bunch of movies and make the most of it. … One in-flight amenity is renting a purple-colored iPad pre-loaded with movies for $16. The only thing is, the movies aren’t exactly the most current, with 22 Jump Street, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the latest James Bond being the most recent.
Ouch! An A330 without inflight entertainment system? On a 9-10h flight that makes for a pretty boring flight unless you have your own equipment or you’re willing to rent one of the aforementioned iPad for 16$. IFE for rent. That’s a new one!
Nothing in life is free, and neither is anything on a WOW aircraft. You pay for water and all drinks; Prices vary from around $2.50 for soft drinks and bottled water to about $11 for a turkey sandwich with chocolate-covered licorice candy bar, and Icelandic treat, on the side.
After five or six hours in the air on the way back to L.A., and the fact that everyone’s food and drink was comped due to an excruciating 12-hour delay at the Keflavik airport here was nothing left but cups of dehydrated cous-cous and lentils, chicken soup and random candy bars for breakfast.
Plain water for sale on a long haul flight is another one these things that rubs me the wrong way. I’m all for select service, especially in small concept hotels but in the air I’d really just love to have a cup of water or juice without having to go through a payment process. Especially because that take a lot of time to serve the whole plane and reach the last row. I don’t want to sit all the way in the back and wait light years to finally get something to drink. That being said, since you need to pay for it anyway you can just as well buy something in the terminal or as the flight departs from Tom Bradley Terminal at LAX, Priority Pass members can stock up at the Korean Airlines KAL Lounge.
Hopefully the passengers experiencing this 12 hour delay were aware that although not in the EU, Iceland (just as Norway) participates in the EC261 Regulation which mandates compensation of 600 EUR for such a delay plus the airline is required to care for the passengers. That also includes a hotel and proper meals for such long delays!
I don’t mind low cost airlines at all but on long hauls this sounds like a real drag and pain in the rear. All things considered I can’t see myself booking one of these Wow Air (or any other) flights that don’t even offer the most basic service such as a reasonable carry one allowance (12KG is decent) or a non alcoholic beverage without paying them one by one.
It’s more the hassle rather than the money that keeps me away and the fact that return tickets on this ‘Low Cost Airline’ run close to 1000$ at times tell me that the business concept is missing something. Flights are pretty cheap right now due to the presently low fuel prices. It’s absolutely possible to get a ticket on a regular carrier to Europe for well under 1000$ at any given time. Hopefully customers will compare before they book but just as in Asia where I often see people blindly booking Air Asia when Thai Airways or Cathay Pacific is actually cheaper, some will get burned for sure.
Have you flown budget airlines on long haul routes before? How was your experience?