Last October, I jumped on the introductory fares from Iceland’s WOW Airlines, paying $363.52 for a round trip ticket for Boston to Copenhagen, Denmark for travel in July 2015. Boston to Iceland was only about $270 round trip for summer travel at the time I purchased our tickets.
Summer airfare deals to Europe have been hard to find over the past decade in my experience. Summer is typically miles burning season. With eight months to find an airfare deal from San Francisco to Boston or a 25,000 miles award ticket, this would be a great deal – or so I thought.
WOW Air! My worst low fare deal to Europe ever.
$363.52 is a great ticket price for summer travel between the USA and Europe. I purchased tickets for Kelley and I to fly to Copenhagen, Denmark in July 2015 with the intent of taking her around Norway and Sweden. I thoroughly enjoyed my two week trip to Norway in September 2014 and wanted Kelley to experience Scandinavia with me in 2015.
So, why am I not raving about the WOW Air low fare?
The model of low cost carriers is to entice the public with low airfare deals and then charge the passenger for all other services.
Here are the supplemental add-ons I paid for our Copenhagen tickets:
Seat Assignment Fee
$3.00 per Seat Assignment per segment. Boston – Reykjavik, Iceland – Copenhagen, Denmark and back is four segments X 2 passengers = $24.00 to have assigned seats. To avoid a middle seat and keep us together during the flights, I paid $24.
Yesterday, we boarded the aircraft in Iceland for the flight to Denmark to realize that WOW Air had changed my seat assignment and we were separated by 11 rows on the aircraft with my assigned window seat changed to an aisle seat.
WOW Air has both Checked Bag Fees and Carry-On Bag Fees
The bag fees will determine if your WOW Airline ticket is really a great deal. There is no wiggle room on the bag fees. Your no fee carry-on bag can only be a maximum 5 kg or 11 lbs. and you are only allowed one carry-on bag aboard the aircraft. You must pay a carry-on bag fee if you want to take more than a 5kg bag onboard as your single carry-on. Even then, your carry-on can’t weigh more than 12 kg or 26 pounds.
WOW Airlines Bag Fees for USA to Europe
Perhaps the biggest challenge to the consumer is figuring out exactly what bag fees you will be charged. Bag fees are high for WOW Air travel and since that is the real money-maker for the airline, each passenger’s checked bags and carry-on bags are weighed.
Here are the basic fees for normal bags.
Boston or Baltimore to Iceland bag fees
- one carry-on bag, up to 5kg or 11 lbs in weight = free.
- one carry-on bag, up to 12 kg or 26 lbs in weight = $29 one way or $58 for a round trip flight.
- You are only permitted one piece of carry-on luggage.
- $48 per checked bag one-way, up to 20kg or 44 lbs. = $96 round trip.
At the very least, most passengers need to add $58 to the round trip ticket price for one carry-on bag or $96 for one checked bag and you can carry-on an 11 lb. bag for free. If you need two bags for your travel, one carry-on and one checked bag adds $154 to your low fare deal to Iceland.
Round that up to an even $160 over the ticket price if you want two bags and a seat assignment for the outbound and inbound flight to Iceland.
Boston or Baltimore to a European destination beyond Iceland.
- One checked bag with maximum weight = 20kg/44 lbs.= $67 one way or $134 round trip.
- One carry-on bag, up to 12 kg = $38 one-way or $76 round trip.
Most airlines let you bring on one carry-on aboard the aircraft and a small personal bag like a small backpack, purse, computer bag for free. That is not the case with WOW Air. We arrived to Boston Logan Airport to find a long line of passengers at the check-in counters with only four agents working. Every passenger had every bag weighed.
The weight of my computer and camera equipment alone meant I had to pay a carry-on bag fee.
When I purchased our tickets last year, I figured we could travel with one 44 lb. checked bag and one 26 lb. carry-on. Then, our plans changed with a three week trip and additional flights on other airlines. We needed to travel with two bags each.
After we arrived at Boston Logan Airport, we carefully checked our bag weight and redistributed items between our four bags. We were beside a Swiss Airlines counter and I took each bag over to the scale to get an accurate weight. This was vital since Kelley’s carry-on weighed 6.8kg upon initial weight check and that would have incurred a $57 carry-on bag fee at the WOW Air check-in counter. We moved heavier items from our two carry-on bags to our two checked bags to get our two carry-on bags under the maximum allowed weight limit.
The check-in line was long with about 100 passengers in front of us two hours before departure. The slow process of weighing each piece of every passenger’s luggage meant we were in line for about 45 minutes. A WOW Air employee went through the line reminding people that only one carry-on bag per passenger was allowed and any carry-on over 5kg would require an additional fee.
There were some large bags in the line. Any checked bag over the 20 kg limit meant an additional $18 per kg overweight bag fee. I saw several passengers pull out credit cards to pay bag fees at the counter.
In summary, the final cost for our two WOW Air low fare tickets deal from Boston to Copenhagen came out to $547.52 per passenger:
- $727.04 BOS-CPH round trip ticket price ($363.52 x 2 tickets)
- $76.00 One 12 kg carry-on bag (my computer and camera).
- $268.00 Two 20 kg checked bags (our bags were about 30 lbs. each)
- free – Kelley’s carry-on bag weighed in at 4kg.
- $24.00 seat assignments for eight flight segments at $3.00 each.
$1,095.04 = Total cost for two round trip WOW Air tickets Boston to Copenhagen for a final single ticket price of $547.52 per passenger.
That is certainly a reasonable deal for peak summer season round trip tickets from the east coast to Europe.
So, why do I call this my worst airfare deal to Europe ever?
Frequently, I tell Kelley about low airfare deals to places all over the world. Her favorite response is generally something like “Yes, but we don’t live in Boston”.
$547.52 is a great ticket price from Boston to Copenhagen, even with all the bag fees and seat assignment fees. But we live in Monterey, California and the cost to get to Boston was the cost factor that made this a poor deal for us.
When I bought our WOW Air tickets for this trip to Copenhagen in October 2014, I never imagined 2015 would be the year of low airfare deals from California to Europe.
Here is a fare I found on April 18, 2015 for San Francisco to Stockholm, Sweden on United Airlines.
United Airlines July 6 to July 20 $607.30
This United ticket from San Francisco to Sweden would have included free seat assignments and we would have not paid any bag fees. Plus, we would have earned around 2,000 redeemable miles with Mileage Plus. Delta and British Airways had similar fares in the low $600s for July travel.
We ultimately paid about $250 more per ticket flying WOW Air for our Europe trip compared to the low United fare available to Stockholm ion United Airlines in April. And I got a great low airfare deal for the San Francisco – Boston tickets. Fares were typically over $500 per person.
Next time I need to take heed when Kelley responds to my low airfare find with the words “But, we don’t live in Boston.”
P.S. – The opportunity to transit in Iceland and eat a $33 breakfast with a smoked salmon omelet, salad and drink a local beer was a bonus feature of flying WOW Air. Our WOW Air flight experience was fine and unique. I’ll cover the WOW Air flights and Keflavik KEF Airport Iceland in the next post.
Loyalty Traveler – WOW Air Boston to Iceland flight review (July 4, 2015)