The great thing about discount European airlines is that they have made transatlantic travel more accessible for everyday Americans. This budget air movement, spearheaded by Scandinavian Airlines such as Norwegian Air and WOW, make roundtrip flights from the United States to Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm and Reykjavik less than the price of a Coachella GA wristband.
What many have learned from booking these “discount” flights however, is that not everything is as it seems. In fact, one could argue it’s better to bypass them altogether, particularly WOW. After having flown on Norwegian more than 30 times, and WOW ten times, here are the thing I believe you should be mindful of before booking.
1. What’s Not Included
Carry-on baggage, checked baggage, seat selection, meals, drinks and priority boarding are not including in the lower tier ticket on these airlines. Adding them, whether bundled or a la carte, can quickly raise the base price of your ticket by as much as $100-150 each way. That’s an additional $200-$300 on your ticket’s final price.
2. The Reykjavik Shuffle
Unless you’re dying to spend 20-hours in Reykjavik, bypassing WOW airline’s flights might end up saving you a lot of money. Most of their trips from the United States have a mandatory layover in Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik. The problem with that is it’s one of the most expensive cities in Europe. Getting from the airport into the city center by taxi will cost you around $126. A roundtrip bus ticket will set you back $35. You can always rent a car, but you’re still spending money on gas, insurance and the rental. And then, unless you’re a New York model, you’ll need to eat. In a city where a hot dog from a street cart is $12, that’s not going to be fun. A hotel is on average approximately $200 a night for three star accommodations. Money come, money go.
3. Customer Service
WOW has some of the worst airline customer service in history. The company tries to resolve most of their conflicts through Facebook chat. That should say all you need to know. WOW carries the honor of a three out of ten star rating on airlinequality.com. It was also ranked “Worst Airline in the World for Flight Compensation,” just so you know there’s no TC bias going on.
4. Plane/Seat Changes
On three separate occasions, I paid extra to select my own seat on WOW flights only to arrive at the airport and be informed that the airline had switched planes. This voided my seat assignment. Imagine getting bumped from the 3rd row to the 28th and then having to spend a week trying to get your money back from the airline. Not a good look, and also harkens back to my earlier note about the customer service.
In conclusion, none of this means you should avoid booking on WOW altogether. People should be aware of the risks that come with flying budget for long haul flights. If you’re an easy-going traveler that doesn’t mind roughing it for a day to get to Europe on the cheap, you should absolutely book a flight with these folks. If you’re dying to see some of Iceland, and money is not that important to you, the layovers are a nice way to sneak in an extra city on your travel.
But if you’re in a hurry, budget conscious, or needy in terms of customer service, bypass the experience. Spending $200 extra for a ticket on Air France, British Airways or a similar carrier will end up saving you more money in the end.