Once upon a time I paid $700 to travel from Washington, D.C. to Europe. It was Spring and I thought it was a bargain. I have since learned my lesson.
The reality is that there is no reason to pay $700 USD, or anything close to that, for airfare to the old continent. Since I learned to travel smartly, I have discovered many friends amongst the airline industry. Most recently, newcomers to transatlantic routes have been flooding my head with the idea of a return trip to Europe.
WOW Air is the most recent of the newcomers. It is also the boldest.
Upon establishing their routes, WOW Air published incredible rates of $99 USD each way.
Yes, there are limitations to their rates. It IS a budget airline and as such you will pay extra for baggage, selecting your preferred seat, and even a bottle of water. But, if you are willing to be a little creative and do some pre-trip planning, the monetary reward is incredible.
For our little family, I have always insisted on one small carry-on per person. Hence, the WOW Air baggage policy of 11 pounds max. for a free carry-on didn’t make any of us bat an eye.
With a child, I admit that we felt forced to pre-select our seats in order to guarantee that the 10 year old did not spend the whole flight sitting next to a stranger. And because I can make a sandwich just as tasty as any airline employee, the food was pre-packed at home. As a child of the 1970’s, I still remember flying, both nationally and internationally, with hot airline food served on every flight. I guess that’s a nice little anecdote I will get to share with my grandchildren.
WOW Air is a new product for most of us. As such, and understandably, I think people are a bit apprehensive to book these incredibly affordable flights. What will the plane look like for $99 each way? Will we arrive on time? Who is WOW Air? These were my husbands first questions when I brought up the airline. But, truth be told, for the price, I was willing to take almost any gamble. And so we thought that we would share every detail of our flight experience with our readers. Clearly, every person experiences things differently and each new day and flight is different in both big and small ways. This review is simply OUR experience. The good, the great, and the ugly.
Our WOW Air experience: From booking to arrival
The WOW Air website is pretty standard and easy to navigate. You reach their home screen and can easily select one way, round trip, or stopover options.
Note: I must say that four months ago when I booked I do not remember seeing that stopover option on the website. There were instructions to call but, when I did, I had to leave a message with a machine. Getting no response, I sent an email and was told that, because I had already booked the flight (I did not want to miss out on the great price) it was too late. No biggie for us as the stopover would have just been an unplanned bonus, but it would have been nice. With the stopover option on the main screen, I highly suggest you take advantage of the opportunity. I know we definitely will the next time we fly with the airline.
After selecting your dates and flights the site directs you to their “services” page. This is where you can pay to bring any piece of luggage bigger than 5kg/11lbs. (and they WILL weigh your carry-on and make sure that you only have ONE- not your bag and a purse, just ONE bag!). The option to bring a larger carry-on with a max weight of 12kg will cost you $38.99 USD. If you need to fly with a bigger one or one that you wish to check-in, fees start at $48.99 USD per bag.
You can also purchase cancelation protection, equipment, airport transfer, and your seat selection.
Opting to choose your own seat will cost you. Depending on where the seat is located and, apparently, its size, you will pay between $9.99 for a standard seat, $11.99 for a seat closer to the front of the plane, $19.99 for an XL seat, and $29.99 for an XXL seat. They are clearly labeled on the site and easy to select. Of course, you can also just let the airline choose your seat and pay no extra fee. Because this was our first time traveling with this airline and we did not know how family friendly they would be, we chose to just pay for a standard seat to make sure we were all seated together during the long legs of the flights. On departure day, I knew we were sitting together from BWI to Reykjavik, Iceland but the Reykjavik to Amsterdam flight was still a mystery.
We did show up early at the airport to check in and were assigned seats, all three together, for the second leg of the journey. The same thing happened on the return flight. I should also point out that we never had a full flight and, on all four segments we flew with WOW Air, there were several rows with only one seat taken or the middle seat empty.
Continuing on with the ticket purchase on the WOW Air website, the next option is for all kinds of tours, transportation and hotel options. And then, the payment page. Straight and to the point and, for me, the real test of a budget airline. Is that plane ticket still $99 (or whatever original number you started off with)?
For us, it was. Well, minus the $59.94 we had paid to select our seat assignments. Again, we did that because we did not know the airline. If I booked another flight with them today I would not pre-select our seats. But, even with that added expense, our transatlantic flights, for three people, came in at $1009.60 (tickets, taxes, fees, and seat selections included).
And so, armed with tickets, pre-selected seats for part of the journey, an 11 pound backpack each (11 pounds fills up pretty fast), and a bag filled with homemade sandwiches and snacks, we boarded our flight ready for an awesome adventure.
Our flight was, well, a transatlantic flight. Nothing to really write home about but nothing to complain about either. It got us from A to B for a price that was cheaper than flying cross-country on the same dates. That’s a winner in my book.
There were, of course, pros and cons. I tend to think that these are always family specific (my con could be your pro) but I share them to give everyone an idea of what could happen on a WOW Air flight.
- Even though there was only one desk open during the check-in process, it went by fast and very smoothly.
- We were assigned seats, by the airline, which kept our family of three together. This is incredibly important to us given that we fly with a child.
- When boarding was announced, families with children under the age of 6 were asked to board first. Having traveled with children under the age of 6 I find that very helpful.
- We were seated, on all four flight segments, in standard seats. Andy, at almost 6 feet tall, had no problems fitting his legs and the seats were comfy enough. Given that there are two higher seat categories (at a price) I think the seat options are good.
- There is a plug for electrical devises under your seat. I LOVE this about the airline and I am sure everyone who carries an electrical devise to entertain themselves, or their children, is equally grateful. We used ours on all four segments and were happy to be able to play/watch videos/ use our devises to our hearts content without a worry.
- The airline will rent you an iPad that comes pre-loaded with movies and games for a fee. We were not interested in what seemed like outdated movies to us, but its nice to have the option.
- The planes are all clean, modern, newer looking planes.
- Our individual bags were weighed and tagged at check-in. Now, we knew we had a bag limit of 11 pounds as per the website. This should not be a surprise to anyone as you come across the information more than once (but there’s always someone who is surprised, I don’t know why). This fact is not on the con list not because it exists, but because of the manner in which it is enforced, and then ignored. Let me explain: When you check-in and inform the attendant of your intention to carry your free bag, she/he will weigh it on the scale and then tag it with a bright, yellow label. So up to this point all is good. You diligently packed your bag, stayed under 11 pounds, and are happily on your way to the plane. But, after this very moment, no one will ever weigh your bag again. You can empty your pockets full of heavy camera equipment, purchase more clothes at the airport, heck, you can walk up to the family member that dropped you off and have him/her hand you five more pieces of clothing and two pairs of shoes to stuff in your carry-on (assuming they fit). What I am trying to say is that if you are smart enough/ interested you can very easily cheat this system. If you are not interested/ honest to a flaw, you end up paying bag fees. It all just seems kind of unfair to me. I prefer the method where the airline assigns a size to your carry-on and you can stuff it with whatever fits. Clearly this might just be an issue for me. Regardless, know that your carry-on WILL be weighed and tagged. Ours came in at 11, 10.5 and 10.3 pounds. Yes, I’m very proud of that.
- There is a handy magazine in your front pocket that gives you pictures and prices for the food options on board. It didn’t seem very tasty to me (but that’s just my personal opinion).
- Upon take off, the flight attendant announced that the computer system/ credit card reader on the plane was malfunctioning. This meant that anyone wishing to purchase food on board could only do it with cash. They were nice enough to point out that they would take any currency, but it is an epic fail in my opinion. As you know, we had packed our dinner and snacks. But, trust me, had I planned to eat on the plane there would be one loud and angry post (and letter to the airline) concerning this matter. I personally find it simply unacceptable. So make sure you carry some cash with you the next time you board the airline. And, to be fair, the three other segments did have working credit card readers.
- During our second flight segment, we wanted to try out the chicken noodle soup. We ordered, were served, and then it took three credit cards for my purchase to be accepted. The flight attendant said something about being “off line” and how credit cards can often refuse such transactions. Luckily the third time was the keeper and the transaction went through. But, again, paying for food should not be an issue on a flight. There really should be some type of back up.
Would we recommend WOW Air?
Even with some of the glitches we had, we would definitely recommend WOW Air to our friends and family and will be flying them again ourselves. I say this because we are a very laid back family. We have no problems with average airline seats, we don’t mind packing our travel food, we are happy to carry our own entertainment with us, and we pack very lightly. Our price per person came in at $336.53 USD. Even if we had checked in a bag and bought a meal on board our price per person would still be around $400 USD, and that’s round trip! Not a bad price to travel to Europe in March.
The airline caption is “We promise you that WOW feeling!”. I can say without a second thought that it completely describes how I felt when I hit the purchase button on our flight, and every time I look at how little we spent on our flight to Europe.
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