Ben Mutzabaugh published today in USA Today WOW Airlines will fly between Reykjavik, Iceland KEF and Los Angeles 4x weekly and San Francisco 5x weekly beginning summer 2016.
WOW Air service began earlier this year between Boston BOS and Baltimore BWI and Reykjavik KEF. In May 2016, service is scheduled to begin from Toronto and Montreal to Iceland. WOW Air flies to several places in Europe from Reykjavik KEF Airport.
The WOW aircraft on the California routes will be an A330-300 widebody with 340 economy class seats. Ticket sales will launch January 2016.
My WOW Airlines flight landing, surrounded by colorful fields of lupine at KEF Reykjavik, Iceland July 2015.
Last July I flew Boston BOS to Reykjavik, Iceland KEF to Copenhagen, Denmark CPH on WOW Air. The ticket was around $500 all-in round trip for July travel. About half the fare price was carry-on and checked bag fees. My primary complaint about the trip was not about WOW Air, but the cost to fly from California to Boston. I purchased WOW Air tickets in October 2014.
Ultimately, I could have flown San Francisco to Copenhagen in July 2015 for about $200 less when United and Lufthansa dropped ticket prices in April 2015 to low $600s for July 2015 travel.
My honest opinion is Norwegian and WOW Air were game-changers in 2015 in forcing the legacy airlines of American, Delta and United to offer some low priced sales for USA to Europe. Scandinavian airports in 2015 have been priced at 50% to 60% of the prevailing ticket prices for USA to Europe with round trip fares generally around $600 from LAX and SFO to Billund BLL, Copenhagen CPH, Bergen BGO, Oslo OSL, Gothenburg GOT, and Stockholm ARN. This is primarily due to Norwegian Airlines. I look forward to seeing the effect of WOW Air discount fares on California to Europe ticket prices in 2016.
One Way fares are real value of WOW flying to California
Since Norwegian Air started flights from LAX to London and Oakland OAK to Scandinavia, I have considered dozens of flights to fly me from California to Scandinavia or London and sometimes even back again. Up to this point, I have not needed to book a Norwegian Airlines flight.
There are times when a round trip ticket from Oakland to Stockholm or Oslo or Copenhagen is under $400 round trip. But, the real value to me for Norwegian Airlines, and as of next summer, WOW Air is these airlines sell cheap one-way fares.
One way fares are a useful tool for frequent travelers to Europe.
The general rule of legacy airlines like American, Delta and United is an international fare is primarily sold only as a round trip fare. Sure, you can buy a one-way fare from Los Angeles to London, but the one-way ticket price is often around 90% of the round trip price, and frequently the one-way ticket price is more than the round trip ticket price.
The value of Norwegian and WOW are true one-way ticket prices.
One Way Paid and One Way on Miles – This means you can fly on a low cost paid ticket one-way to or from Europe and redeem miles for an award ticket the other way. This is a convenient way to travel round trip when your miles are only enough to fly you one way.
Fly to Europe and continue around the world on other low cost carrier fares
Drew of Travel is Free wrote a piece about using Norwegian and WOW Air as one component of traveling around the world on discount airline carriers. One of the best pieces of advice I learned from Drew is SkyScanner.com searches low cost carriers in other regions of the world with discount fares I was not finding in some of my Google Flights searches.
Fly One Way to Europe and buy a cheaper round trip ticket to the USA originating in Europe – this is one of those strategies for the true frequent flyer, for a traveler who can plan out several moves ahead, like a chess player.
One of the frustrations I have had over the past few years is seeing the price of a round trip ticket for hundreds of dollars less originating in Europe to San Francisco than the ticket price for the same flights starting from San Francisco.
When your travels mean returning to the same area in Europe within weeks or months, starting your travel in Europe can potentially mean significant ticket cost savings.
Here is an example of how I recently planned my travel with a one-way award to Europe. The same strategy would work for one way travel on WOW Airlines or Norwegian Airlines to Europe.
Norwegian Airlines Los Angeles to London LGW
$348.20 November 22, 2015
(Ticket prices are $248.20 one way in January 2016)
One Way to London
My wife gave me the challenge a couple of weeks ago to take us to London for Thanksgiving. While I had sufficient American Airlines AAdvantage miles for two MileSAAver economy class awards at 40,000 miles round trip, the Thanksgiving dates were mostly blocked from low miles award travel.
Norwegian Airlines looked like a possibility for a low fare over to London.
I already knew there were low round trip fares from Scandinavia back to San Francisco after flying Bergen, Norway BGO-SFO twice in September 2015 on round trip tickets for under $400.
Our London trip is fully booked. I ended up finding AAdvantage award space from our home airport Monterey MRY to London LHR flying American Airlines MRY-LAX-LHR for 20,000 miles + $5.60 per ticket.
Since I knew I needed to be in Stockholm, Sweden in July 2016 for a conference, I purchased round trip tickets for $500 each to fly Stockholm ARN to San Francisco at the end of our Thanksgiving trip with the return flight to Stockholm in July to get us back to Sweden for the conference.
I still need to get us home from Stockholm to San Francisco in July 2016.
WOW Air will be one option to consider with one-way fares. Norwegian Airlines will be another option for one-way fares from Europe to California. Both airlines sell one-way flights from Europe to California at the same fare component as a round trip flight. Competition between Norwegian and WOW might even mean there are some low fare opportunities for July 2016 travel.
Or I might use frequent flyer miles to get us home from Europe.
Bottom line for me is the launch of WOW Air flights between Iceland and California is another airline for more low cost fare strategies when traveling between California and Europe.
And for the more astute readers who noticed I am flying to London for Thanksgiving and flying home from Stockholm, Sweden, the missing piece of the puzzle is travel from London to Stockholm. I locked up that piece of our Thanksgiving travel plans with London Heathrow to Stockholm Arlanda ARN on British Airways $116 one-way fares.
Kelley and I can be First Class lounge whores before our London to Stockholm intra-Europe flight through my American AAdvantage Executive Platinum Oneworld Alliance Sapphire elite status I earned flying 30,000 EQM in September 2015 on sub-$400 round trip tickets between Bergen BGO Norway and San Francisco on American Airlines tickets.
I have not seen any sub-$400 fares from California to Europe on American Airlines in 2016. That is why I am excited to hear the news WOW Airlines is flying to California in summer 2016. WOW Air is another route for potentially lower fares from California to Europe or Europe to California in 2016.