WOW Air Review: Iceland To and Fro

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Last fall I headed to Iceland with G Adventures. When booking flights to meet my group in Reykjavik, I came across a number of options. There were your usual suspects (Icelandair, British Airways, Delta, etc.) on Kayak. And then there was WOW Air. WOW Air was significantly less expensive. I sensed it might be a “Spirit Situation” so I conducted my research cautiously!

Like Spirit, it is an a la carte experience. While you will initially find a very low base fare, you will ultimately pay extra for everything else. You pay extra for choosing your seat, extra carry-ons, checked baggage, food, beverages, pretty much everything. Because I was saving hundreds of dollars with WOW Air, I opted for a few upgrades.  But I still was not convinced those would get me back to the caliber of service I’m used to.
Before we go further, let me give you a lay of the land.

Wow Air Basics

First you pick your booking class.  You can book WOW Basic, WOW Plus, or WOW Biz.  Here is what each gets you: 
Basic: Airfare and a personal item (42x32x25cm/17x13x10in (10kg/22 lbs))
Plus: Basic with a carry-on (56x45x25cm/22x18x10in (12kg/26 lbs)), a checked bag (max 20kg/44 lbs), and cancellation protection.
Biz: Plus with a seat reservation, priority boarding, and an in-flight meal.
Then, like with many airlines, if you don’t choose your seat, you’ll get assigned a seat. For an additional charge you can choose your seat.  Your choices are: a regular seat, XL (at least 32″), XXL (at least 35″), or a “BigSeat” (at least 37″, but only available on Airbus 330).
Next up – baggage.  If you need to check a bag, you should pay for it online before check-in. Why?  It is cheaper. If you check it online it will cost $49.99.  If you wait until check-in, the price goes up to $69.99.  And if you decide to check at the gate, it goes up to $99.99. So don’t expect the offer to gate check for free that the other major carriers might offer – that will definitely backfire!
The same charge will actually apply to your carry on as well.  If you only purchased a Basic fare, you can only bring on a personal item (see parameters above) so you’ll pay to bring anything more.  So expect to deal with your carry-on. Just like the checked bags its $39.99 online, $49.99 at the counter, $99.99 at the gate.
No matter what, you WILL have to stand in line at the airport to give them your bag.  Plan accordingly.
And oh yeah – there is one more important fact.  They are not a participating airline in the TSA Pre-Check program.  That is probably my biggest con with WOW Air.
So now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get back to the flight itself.

WOW Air Flight Review

I opted for WOW Basic, paid for a carry-on and checked bag, and upgraded to an XL seat. I’m 5’3″ and it was more than enough room. The seats themselves are more sleekly designed than say your standard coach AA seat.  As a result, the cabin automatically appears less cluttered. (“Does sleek=narrower?” she asks herself.)
I was booking out of Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), my home airport.  That took a slight amount of coordination.  WOW Air only flies out of west/east coast cities in the United States, although starting in July 2017, Chicago will join that list. I ultimately found the best times and price out of Baltimore Washington International (BWI).
Keeping with the pay-to-play nature of WOW Air, drinks, snacks, and duty free are all available for purchase onboard. I skipped the purchased food and instead ate a few snacks I brought with me. I did nurse a gin and tonic though because I’m a nervous flyer.
My total flight time was under 6 hours. That amounted to 2 sleepless naps, 1.5 movies, and 8 pages of a book.  Before I knew it, I was there.

WOW Air Summary

Given all my upgrades and fees, my fare STILL came out less than what other airlines were charging once I added up airfare, bags, fees, and other expenses.
Yes, other airlines have all the perks you and I are used to on international flights: TSA Pre-Check, onboard meals, in-seat entertainment, less fuss when checking your bags, first class upgrades, (the list goes on and on).  But the short duration of my flight and knowing exactly what I was paying for made WOW Air well worth the savings.
Bottom line – I actually enjoyed my flight and I never felt I was just “dealing with it”.  Ask yourself.  When paying for an international economy flight, did you REALLY enjoy that meal you got free? Do what I did – BYOB (bring your own baguette) – which is what I did when I flew back to BWI on the return, and you’re good to go.
I would say WOW Air sets a new standard for a la carte airlines. Friendly staff, and what seems like a fun company (see the photo below of the “Wonderwall” – I also love their graphic advertisements!), lessened any stress I was feeling.

WOW Air “I’m your Wonderwall”

I would definitely fly WOW Air again. If you want an inexpensive flight to Iceland and aren’t too particular about the way you get there, this is your airline.

About Samantha Smith

Samantha is a geologist/GIS analyst working for an oil and gas company in Fort Worth. She maximizes her vacation days by traveling over holidays and finding spontaneous weekend getaways that are as adventurous as they are random. Although not privy to many travel statuses, she utilizes her credit card privileges, points, and scours the internet for the best deals and upgrade opportunities. In her free time she does CrossFit, trains for marathons, cheers on her Horned Frogs, and fiddles with too many DIY projects at her new condo.

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    • Many of my photos were not saved, and my camera was stolen post-trip. I’m at the mercy of phone-only photos with this post.

      • Ugh… having a camera stolen after a trip sucks. There is nothing worse than losing all of your photos after a trip before you’ve backed them up.

        I’ve skipped entire trip reports for having lost photos – so I appreciate you sharing information nonetheless!

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