WOW Air, the Iceland-based European Low Cost Carrier (LCC) has opened reservations for its new flights between Europe and the US West Coast and that should be good news for consumers.
Whether you’re flying to or from Europe, if you want to fly with WOW Air, you’ll have to route through Reykjavik (the airline’s home base) to connect using their new West Coast flights.
WOW Air West Coast Schedule
Flights between Reykjavik and San Francisco are scheduled to start from 9 June 2016 on the following schedule:
WW161 KEF 15:50 – 17:40 SFO (Mon, Wed, Thur, Fri, Sun)
WW162 SFO 13:20 – 04:40+1 day KEF (Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri, Sat)
And flights between Reykjavik and Los Angeles are scheduled to start from 15 June 2016 with the following times and frequency:
WW173 KEF 15:50 – 17:50 LAX (Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri)
WW174 LAX 12:40 – 04:10+1 day KEF (Tue, Wed, Thur, Sat)
The schedule has been set to ensure that connections to major European cities aren’t too bad at all and WOW Air is selling tickets to/from London, Amsterdam, Dublin, Berlin, Copenhagen amongst others.
WOW Air Aircraft
The airline will be employing its new 340-seater Airbus A330-300 aircraft on both routes which feature a cabin with a 2-4-2 seating arrangement.
Standard seat will have between 30″ and 31″ of pitch (leg room) although there are various options with more room available for this who are prepared to pay to select their seats in advance:
30″ is really not a lot of leg room at all and is something I would not even consider on flights as long as these ones. Life’s too short to be that cramped and uncomfortable for that length of flight.
There’s no mention of how wide the seats are on the new WOW air A330-300 but, based on other airlines that fly the same aircraft with the same 8-across seating configuration, I’d assume they would be no more than 17″ wide – horribly narrow but, sadly, what’s rapidly becoming standard across the Atlantic.
WOW Air Pricing
From what I’ve seen so far the prices on these new West Coast routes are just about the same whichever direction you’re flying – so prices for Los Angeles to London are similar to prices for London to Los Angeles.
There has been a lot of press in the last 48 hours discussing some amazing headline-grabbing fares for travel between the West Coast and Europe. One-way fares of $199 have been mentioned in the US press and prices from the UK have been quoted as being as low as £139 one-way…but let’s inject a bit of reality into all of this.
First off I haven’t seen those prices available on these routes. That’s not to say they haven’t been made available but, if they have, they certainly haven’t been made available en masse.
So what are prices looking like:
WOW Air’s low fare finder shows one-way fares between San Francisco and London starting at $265 for the fall/autumn months with the peak summer months coming in a lot higher.
The Los Angeles fares look much the same with one-way fares between LA and Dublin also starting at around $265 for fall/autumn 2016:
With fares in the opposite direction about the same that makes the fall/autumn fares come out to around $530 R/T…which doesn’t sound too bad until you start factoring in the extras.
WOW Air charges for any item of hand baggage over 5Kg in weight so, as I defy anyone to go on vacation with just 5kg of baggage, you’ll be paying to take a bit more.
WOW Air charges a staggering $57 one-way if you want to take a bag weighing up to 12kg on your flight. That’s $114 for a round trip (I’m assuming you’re not going to leave your bag on vacation!) which, for a couple would be $228 on top of the ticket price.
Suddenly that $530 round trip fare for travel in the fall will cost you at least $644.
If you decide you’d rather take a suitcase with you on vacation it will cost you even more. A 20kg suitcase costs $76 one-way or $152 round-trip. That’s an extra $304 for a couple join ton vacation.
With checked bags (and no hand baggage) the cost of the fall/autumn ticket just went up to $682.
There’s two things to keep in mind here:
- There are the cheapest prices currently on offer so things will only get more expensive (generally speaking)
- I haven’t included to cost of selecting seats.
Even ignoring the vastly higher prices that WOW Air is currently charging for peak-season (summer) travel I simply can’t see the value here. I’ve just flown an itinerary between Europe and Los Angeles for under $540 on a full-service airline….and that was without trying to keep the costs down too much. I’m about to fly a similar itinerary in February that costs less than $400.
The low fares that I’m quoting aren’t ones that necessarily come up every day but they’re not that rare either. And it’s not uncommon to find Europe-West Coast fares, on full service airlines, in the $500-$700 range…..so why on earth would I consider WOW Air?
I’m sure there will be times when booking with WOW Air will make sense, despite all their add-on fees, but I don’t see this happening too often.
This could be the classic situation where uninformed consumers expect the low-cost carrier to be cheaper than the full service airlines, don’t do their research properly and end up overpaying. I’ve seen this happen with easyJet, Southwest, Norwegian and a host of other LCCs so I’m pretty sure it will happen here too.
If you take one thing away from this blog post make it this:
Always, always, always check all the prices available to you. Don’t assume anything and make sure you price up the cost of your trip fully (that means including any baggage fees and seat assignment fees you have to pay).
It’s good that WOW Air have started up these West Coast services as it may help keep the full-service airlines on their toes and may, just may, keep them in check when it comes to prices. But with 30″ seat pitch and prices that don’t tempt me at all, I don’t see me trying out these routes any time soon.