Jul042015

WOW Air Boston to Iceland flight review

WOW Air is the Iceland-based low cost carrier airline with service out of Boston and Baltimore BWI airports to Reykjavik KEF, Iceland. The airline launched Boston route ticket sales last October 2014 with $99 one way fares to Iceland for 2015 travel. During that initial sale I purchased two round trip tickets for Boston to Copenhagen for $363.52 each, flying July 2015. Steep bag fees for checked and carry-on luggage bumped our final ticket price to $547.52 round trip. That is still a good low fare deal for July summer travel to Europe. I only wished we could have had a free stopover in Iceland, but that was not an option on our low fare.

Check-in for flight at Boston

We arrived at the WOW Air ticket counters in Boston Logan Airport to find about 100 passengers in line with four ticket counters processing flight check-in. The check-in process was slow. probably due to every passenger’s checked and carry-on bags being weighed. We were in line about 45 minutes for check-in and it looked like there were about as many people behind us when we received our tickets as there were in front us when we arrived.

WOW Air counter

The WOW Airline counter representative was friendly and check-in for us was no hassle since we had already paid our luggage fees accurately and all our four bags, two checked bags and two carry-on bags, were within maximum weight restrictions.

WOW Air bags sign

Since WOW charges for one carry-on bag over 5 kg/11lb and there is a 12 kg/26 lb limit for your one allowable carry-on bag, many passengers had large suitcases for checked bags. There is a 20kg/44lb. maximum weight allowance per checked bag. Go overweight on your checked bag and the overweight fee is $18 per kg at check-in. Go overweight on your carry-on and you have to check your bag at the airport and that will increase the fee from $38 for a carry-on bag purchased online to $86 for a checked bag at the airport.

My previous article on WOW Air goes into detail about WOW bag fees and weights for the low cost carrier. You need to consider your travel needs and how much you will need to pay in bag fees to determine if you are really getting a low fare to Europe with WOW Air. My $363.52 round trip ticket price Boston to Copenhagen increased to $573.52 after bag fees for one 26 lb. carry-on ($76) and one checked bag ($134) round trip, plus $12 for seat assignments. My total ticket price $585.52. My wife had only a 5 kg free carry-on bag and one checked bag ($134). Her total ticket price was $509.52.

WOW Air Boarding

We figured the long line of passengers behind us in the WOW Air ticket line would mean the flight was not departing on time. We made it through the check-in line about 55 minutes before scheduled flight departure from Boston at 6:55pm. It looked like there were still more than one-third of the 200 or so flight passengers still behind us at check-in.

GateE6 Boston

An observation I made while waiting for the WOW Airlines flight at gate E6 in the International Terminal of Boston Logan Airport is the layout of the terminal is one of the worst I have seen for passenger congestion. Gate E6 was directly past the TSA security screening counters. Seating occupies the center of the long narrow international terminal and to get to the one bathroom I saw meant either navigating through the passengers exiting airport screening or on the other side, passing through people with luggage buying food in the food court. Perhaps it was the particular time we were in the airport, but it was a pain to walk through the crowds in the narrow corridors surrounding the seating to move from one part of the terminal to another.

BOS congestion

The flight was boarded with passengers seated in the rear of the aircraft in aisles 25 and higher boarding first. SeatGuru.com shows the WOW Air Airbus 321 aircraft seat configuration with 35 rows and 200 seats.

WOW Freya

The A321 aircraft was new. One thing about the strict one carry-on bag per passenger with WOW Air is there was no problem with space for our bags. Only the last of the passengers had to shift bags in the overhead bins to make space.

WOW A321

Right away I could tell the airline had a sense of whimsy with the signage inside the aircraft.

Ring My Bell

I have not been able to get the Anita Ward 1979 disco tune ‘Ring My Bell’ out of my head for two days now. That is a syndrome dating back to my days when I was a teenage punk rocker store employee in a California record shop that primarily made money selling disco records. I know more disco tunes than a person who never set foot inside a disco in the 1970s should know.

WOW VomitMeter    WOW Vomitmeter-EN

Seeing aircraft signs in Icelandic was cool.

Icelandic plane signs

English signs are also on the seatback.

The boarding process took some time and since we were already late for departure, the flight ended up getting delayed even more by a line of several other planes waiting to fly out of Boston.

Iceland row

Boston Logan Gates for Iceland.

The aircraft was totally full. It looked at check-in that around one-third of the passengers were backpackers. The couple seated next to me were heading to Iceland for their two-week honeymoon with plans to drive around the island in a jeep rental and camp for much of their trip. That is something I would like to do in Iceland. There were several children on the aircraft, just one of the inconveniences of summer travel.

Translation Please!

As California elementary school teachers, we regularly have to evaluate students who are English Language Learners on a scale of 1 to 5. Most of us are Level 1 in most foreign languages, knowing 30 or fewer words. The scale goes to 5, where a listener would have a difficult time knowing the speaker at one time did not speak English as their primary language.

We gave the flight attendants 3s and 4s. The pronunciation of life vest as life ‘west’ was the clue that the main flight attendant was a 4 in English. I wanted to ask her to pronounce Reykjavik and hear how the v sounds in Icelandic.

The co-pilot giving announcements was a 3, maybe a 2. We understood that we were 9th in line for take-off. Most of what he said was not comprehensible to us. Kelley was flashing sign signals to me rating the English Language Learner level after each announcement.

Hey, we are most certainly a ‘1’ when it comes to Icelandic. After flying over one million miles, I enjoy hearing flight announcements in languages other than English.

WOW carpet    WOW seatback

WOW Honk Hungry   WOW aircraft

“Honk if You’re Hungry”

Tips for Low Cost Carrier Travel

My first RyanAir flight was in 1997 and I learned on that first flight to always bring water on board the plane with me. RyanAir charged for in-flight water, even back then.

WOW Air is a low cost carrier and everything comes at additional cost. Kelley and I brought salad and fruit and two bottles of water on the plane for the 5-hour flight.

Some passengers were surprised to learn that even getting water in flight was a pay service.

WOW Air does not offer an inflight food menu on the website. They have a food service with sandwiches, drinks and other items. Here are some sample menu items and prices. Since I did not buy anything, I don’t know how these prices convert to dollars. The WOW inflight magazine only showed prices in Iceland kroner and Euros.

  • Ham and Cheese baguette = 7 EUR
  • Flatbread with smoked lamb = 5 EUR
  • Flatbread and chocolate milk = 6 EUR
  • Nissin Noodles Soba Cups = 5 EUR (dry noodle soup made with hot water.)
  • Tomato or Chicken soup = 5 EUR (dry soup made with hot water.)
  • Skyr Iceland high-protein food = 2 EUR (yogurt?)
  • MOMA! Porridge = 5 EUR
  • SuperBar gluten-free, lactose-free nutrition bar = 4 EUR (9 flavors)
  • Assorted selection of candies = 3 EUR
  • Oreo snack pack = 3 EUR
  • Coffee or tea = 2 EUR
  • Coffee with mini-alcohol = 8 EUR
  • Gull beer = 5 EUR or 2 beers for 8 EUR
  • Gin and tonic = 7 EUR
  • bottled water or soft drink = 2 EUR
  • juice box = 2 EUR

No In-Flight Entertainment on Aircraft

The new A321 aircraft I flew on had no inflight entertainment system. Apparently, that is the same for all USA – Iceland aircraft operated by WOW Air.

It is suggested that you bring your own music and movies onboard. I don’t think there is any inflight WiFi option. Note: Low cost carrier Norwegian Airlines offers free Wi-Fi access on its planes.

My window seat provided plenty of entertainment for me with the five hour flight almost all in twilight and dawn light. I saw the sun on the horizon three times as it set soon after departure from Boston and then again over west Greenland, I saw a sunrise too, and over east Greenland another sunrise. I thought the views from the WOW Air flight were fabulous.

One of the most captivating sights I have seen on an aircraft happened on the WOW Air flight July 2 from Boston to Iceland. As we flew up the eastern seaboard, bright planet Venus was clearly visible, along with Jupiter in the evening sky. It never got dark enough to see any stars during the five hour flight. For about an hour I was mesmerized by Venus and Jupiter with an astonishing sense of perspective that Venus was near to Earth and Jupiter was much farther out in the solar system. Check out the link to EarthSky.org to see an image of the two planets in alignment, similar to what I saw from the WOW flight. The most amazing part was the three dimensional perspective giving a sense of distance I saw from the plane, compared to the two dimensional perspective planets have in photos as seen in the EarthSky.org photo. A spectacular northern lights show, while seated in British Airways First Class about 14 years ago ranks as my best ever plane sighting. Next to the northern lights, I think this alignment of the planets, clearly visible when flying at 35,000 feet above the clouds in twilight, was the best flight image of space I have experienced in years.

WOW Venus and Jupiter

Venus is the small bright spot in the center of the photo. My camera did not pick up Jupiter clearly. The human eye is hard to match for perception.

If I was asked to name the best sighting I have seen of earth from a plane, my answer without a doubt would be Greenland. I had a spectacular daytime flight 10 to 15 years ago where the terrain of Greenland was clearly visible and I was captivated by the scenery. This week’s WOW Air flight provided more great Greenland scenery.

I woke up from a nap and looked out the window to see what I thought were ships in the ocean. Then I realized I was looking at enormous icebergs floating off the west coast of Greenland. A couple of minutes later, the fjords of Greenland came into view. The glaciers were so clearly visible that I felt I could see their slow movement from land into the sea. I love seeing Earth from 40,000 feet in cloudless skies.

WOW west coast of Greenland

The sun was intense in the hour before touchdown in Iceland. I had to keep the window shade lowered for the sake of my eyes.

The fields beside the runway at Keflavik KEF Airport, Reykjavik, Iceland were filled with colorful purple lupine.

WOW KEF Lupine

We went through passport control upon deplaning at Keflavik KEF Airport, even though we were only transiting for our next WOW flight to Copenhagen. We had reached the EU. We did not go through passport control again when we arrived in Copenhagen. I love having an Iceland passport stamp.

The flight crew walked past me in the airport and I snapped a photo, not because they were cute, but to show the uniform color, which is prevalent throughout WOW Air branding.

WOW flight attendants

Keflavik Airport is a small airport with a number of shops and restaurants. We were scheduled to arrive at 4:05am. Our late departure from Boston resulted in a 5:00am arrival and our WOW Air Copenhagen flight was at 7:00am. We settled down in a restaurant for a breakfast of a packaged Caesar salad and a cooked to order omelet with smoked salmon. I needed my own validation stamp for visiting a new country by having a breakfast Icelandic Úlfur India Pale Ale nr. 3.

Iceland beer sm

Even though I complained in my previous Loyalty Traveler post that WOW Air was not a low airfare deal for our trip to Europe, my complaint is primarily based in the cost for us to get from California to Boston to catch the WOW flights. The deal was a very good deal from the Boston area.

WOW Air Boston sign

I truly believe that competition from WOW Air and Norwegian Airlines has forced the legacy carriers to lower airfares between the USA and Europe in 2015. That is a recent change that benefits U.S. travelers.

Our WOW flight to Copenhagen left and arrived on time.

I hope we see WOW Air expand its U.S. routes. Iceland is a beautiful and rugged country I hope to spend more time in someday when I can travel beyond the airport.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. “We had reached the EU.” No you had not. Iceland is not a member of the EU. The reason you went through passport control in KEF but not in Copenhagen is because both Iceland and Denmark are part of the Schengen area. But Iceland (like Norway and Switzerland) are part of Schengen without being part of the EU.

  2. regarding the prices, euro-dollar is currently around the 1/1.1 mark so (factoring in bank fees) an easy way for US folk to convert, is to look at the Euro price as being $ before the 15% tip……
    3euro = $3 +tip

  3. Odd you had trouble with their English. English is taught from an early age in Iceland and virtually the entire country is perfectly fluent.

  4. Thanks for the review. I was looking for a little more info on the seat comfort or leg room, etc. Maybe I missed something on that in the article.

  5. @DaninMCI – window seats have least amount of legroom under seat. Kelley was sitting behind me and her long legs kept touching the bag of my feet when she stretched out. I spend a lot of time in my seat with my feet straight down like sitting at a chair normally. The pitch seemed more than the red-eye Delta flight SFO-JFK a couple nights before. The woman next to me complained how uncomfortable the seat was for the five hour flight. I had the opposite reaction, thinking the seat was more comfortable that my 5.5 hour SFO-JFK Delta flight 48 hours earlier.

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