WOW Air: What a $99 Fare to Europe Truly Costs

WOW Air shook the airline industry in 2014 when it offered flights as low as $99 to Iceland Europe from Boston and Baltimore.  This year, they expanded their reach to San Francisco and Los Angeles, offering the same great deals.  With such a great rate, everyone’s next question about the flight is “What’s the catch?”

Black & Abroad took advantage of these cheap flights from Baltimore to Paris a few months ago.  Here’s a quick review of our experience.

The Fare:

We were able to secure flights for $348 each.  $149 from BWI to Paris, and $199 for the return.  Not bad, right?  This price is well below the typical fare from the east coast to France (or any European city), and more than welcome to my bank account. Keep in mind though, your total fare won’t stop here. This fare includes a carry-on bag weighing no more than 5 kg (roughly 11 lbs). Anything weighing more than that will bring you to your first add-on cost; those pesky luggage fees.

Total cost so far: $348

The Fees:

Your carry-on can weigh more than 11 lbs, but you will pay.  You can add an additional 7 kg (15 lbs, bringing you to a total of 26 lbs) for $48. Each way. Yes, each way.

WARNING: A purse, laptop bag, or backpack counts towards your carry-on baggage weight limits. Also, don’t expect the staff to go easy on the weight requirement.  On our way to Paris, they strictly adhered to the weight restrictions.  On the way back to the States, not so much.

TRAVEL HACK: Remove your larger electronics (such as a tablet or laptop) and carry those in your hand as you approach the check-in counter. Pack your purse, laptop bag, or backpack into a larger carry-on for weigh-in, and take it out once you’ve gotten past security. It will 1) lighten your load and 2) allow you two pieces of carry-on luggage.

Also keep in mind that the fee amount depends on when you commit to the additional perk.  Adding them prior to check-in will save you money. Weigh your bags at home to save yourself some cash.

It’s also worth noting that the website will not allow you to add any additional perks once you’re within 24 hours of departure.

Total cost so far: $348 plus $96 (the sum of baggage fees for each portion of the trip) = $444*

*If you wait and pay for baggage at the check-in counter, the cost goes up $10 for each portion of the trip.

The Flight:

Checking in was quick and fairly straight forward. They weighed our baggage, tagged them to signify that they were paid for, and sent us on our way.

 The airline may skimp on the niceties, but its customer service is top notch!

The airline may skimp on the niceties, but its customer service is top notch!

Boarding the flight was painless as well.  Don’t worry about your cheap fare resulting in mediocre service. The staff was extremely nice and eager to assist. If you’ve flown Frontier or Spirit, you essentially know what to expect as far as comfort. The seats are very basic. Of course, there’s a fee (ranging anywhere between $8-57, for each way) you can pay for reserving a seat and upgrades to larger seats and more legroom.  I opted out of paying for the latter.  Lucky for me, I had a row to myself on both flights.

 The seats are basic, but not uncomfortable. Pillows and blankets not included.

The seats are basic, but not uncomfortable. Pillows and blankets not included.

Like many no-frills airlines, there is no in-flight entertainment, so bring a completely charged iPad full of movies & tv shows or a good book, and you’ll be fine.

 Your in-flight entertainment should you decide to come without a book or an iPad full of movies.

Your in-flight entertainment should you decide to come without a book or an iPad full of movies.

One welcome surprise, given the fact that the airline is very bare bones, is that each seat had an electric outlet underneath for you to charge your electronics during the flight.  This comes in handy, seeing as though you’ll need those gadgets to entertain yourself during the flight.  And no, they don't charge you to use these.

Potential fees: $8-$57

Total cost so far: $444

The Food & Drink:

Don’t expect a bag of peanuts, pretzels, or a cup of water; at least not without paying for it first.  If you’ve made it this far, you should’ve expected this.

They do offer food options on the flight, but they leave much to be desired. Your best bet would be to grab a meal at one of the restaurants in the terminal before you depart. If you do decide to purchase something during the flight, they only accept plastic as payment.  I had issues using my American Express as a form of payment for a bottle of water, but any other card appeared to work fine.

Total cost so far: $449 ($5 for a bottle of water)

The Final Verdict:

Would I fly WOW again?  Definitely.  The fare, even with all of the extra fees, was hundreds of dollars less than most trips from the U.S. to Europe. The flight from Baltimore to Paris was split pretty evenly by a brief layover in Iceland (WOW’s base), giving just enough time to grab a bite to eat and stretch your legs.  

My advice would be to price out all of the potential fees before purchasing, and then compare that total with the cost of other airlines.  This should help you in determining whether the price still has that “WOW” factor. $444 was solid enough of price for me.

So pack light, bring your own in-flight entertainment & snacks, and have a nice meal before your flight and you’ll be fine!  The money you’ll save can be used for other flights once you get to Europe to explore even further.

 WOW Air flies to 20 locations from it's hub in Reykjavik, Iceland.

WOW Air flies to 20 locations from it's hub in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Have you taken a flight with WOW Air? Thinking about it? We’d love to hear your comments or questions below!