This article compares the final ticket price for the three airline ticketing options of Norwegian, WOW and a major alliance carrier. I compare the final round trip ticket price for a traveler flying San Francisco Bay Area to Stockholm, Sweden in January 2017 on Norwegian, WOW and Star Alliance member SAS Scandinavian Airlines with a pre-assigned seat, one checked bag and one carry-on bag. United Airlines and SAS do not charge for one carry-on and one checked bag on international flights and no charge for a seat assignment on United, but there might be a small charge with SAS for seats. Norwegian and WOW have checked bag and seat assignment fees. WOW has additional fees for one carry-on bag of normal roll-aboard size and both Norwegian and WOW charge for food and drink service.
San Francisco SFO – Reykjavik, Iceland KEF – Stockholm, Sweden ARN – KEF – SFO
$440.00 round trip Sat Jan 21 – Mon Jan 30
While Kayak.com/Explore/SFO is one of my favorite tools for finding low airfare, the site has become pretty useless for San Francisco to Europe low fares due to so many of the low fare results being WOW Airlines fares. At least with Google Flights I can filter out WOW.
$440 for SFO-Stockholm on WOW Air is a substantially lower price than the next ticket price at $664 for SAS/United, however, WOW has a restrictive free carry-on bag policy and very high charge for a normal size roller board carry-on bag, high fee for one checked bag and seat assignment fees too for each flight segment. Add all those fees to the $440 ticket price shown and you might be surprised how expensive a WOW Air ticket becomes in the final price.
Loyalty Traveler – WOW Air now allows free 22 lb. carry-on bag, but can you pack that small? (Aug 24, 2016).
WOW Air San Francisco SFO – KEF – Stockholm ARN – KEF – SFO
$635.92 round trip Jan 21- Jan 30 final ticket price on WOW with one checked bag and self-selected assigned seats.
This final ticket price assumes you either have small carry-on bag within the free bag dimensions. Otherwise, for a regular roll-aboard carry-on bag, you need to pay another $57.99 each way. Add another $115.98 for a roller-board carry-on for a final ticket price $751.90. Norwegian and United allow a regular size roller board bag to fly free.
$751.90 for a WOW ticket for one checked bag, one carry-on bag and seats. This $752 final ticket price is substantially higher than $440 shown in flight searches on Google Flights. Stockholm in winter is not the kind of place I want to travel with a tiny carry-on bag for WOW flights to Europe with no bag fees. The WOW fare is now equivalent or even more than typical legacy carrier tickets for this same route.
SAS Scandinavian Airlines
I had wanted to use United Airlines, but the tickets around these dates won’t price on United.com. There is an OTA fare I found through Momondo.com for $591 round trip flying United Airlines and SAS for these same Jan 21-30 dates, but I’ll use an SAS fare instead, bookable on the SAS website.
SAS Scandinavian Airlines San Francisco SFO – Newark EWR (United) – Stockholm ARN (SAS) – Copenhagen (SAS) – San Francisco SFO (SAS)
I assumed seat assignments were free on SAS and there are free seat options for 3 of 4 flight segments. There are $40 seat fees on the international flights to be in front of the plane, but for free you can sit in the back of the plane. There is a $10 seat assignment fee for Stockholm-Copenhagen segment, if you don’t want to risk being assigned a middle seat.
Final additional cost is $10 for self-selected seats on these four flights for SFO-Stockholm on SAS.
SAS Bag Fees
SAS has a low weight allowance for a free carryon bag at 8kg/18lb.
The following is the maximum size and weight for cabin baggage onboard SAS flights:
- Height: 55 cm/22″
- Width: 40 cm/16″
- Depth: 23 cm/9″
- Weight: 8 kg/18 lbs.
The carry-on bag dimensions are normal size for a small roller board bag.
One checked bag flies free on SAS Go fares, up to 23kg/53lb.
SAS Final Ticket Price $679.88 round trip.
Norwegian Air – the cheaper alternative
By shifting the date to fly one day earlier on Friday January 20, Norwegian Air has a base ticket price for Oakland to Stockholm of $309 round trip. In all fairness to the ticket prices with Star Alliance and WOW, the lowest SAS base fare is $629 in January 2017 and lowest WOW base fare is $420, which would reduce their final ticket prices by $20 for WOW and $40 for SAS.
Norwegian Air Oakland – Stockholm ARN (nonstop)
Google Flights Norwegian Airlines airfare search.
The reason Google Flights directs the fare search to different one-way tickets is the price for the Stockholm-Oakland ticket is significantly less when purchased through the Sweden website for Norwegian Airlines compared to the cost to pay for a round trip ticket through the USA website.
Norwegian Airlines Oakland – Stockholm ARN one-way
$259.00 (USA website) Friday Jan 20
Norwegian Airlines base fare of $169 requires additional fees for a self-selected seat ($45) and $45 for one checked bag. Simply buying up to Low Fare+ for $90 provides both seat assignment, one checked bag and an extra 5kg/11lb weight allowance for a carry-on bag (15kg/33lb). LowFare+ also provides drink and meals on the 11 hour international flight.
You can actually fly for $169 one-way OAK-ARN, if you only bring a 22lb. carry-on, take your chances with an airline assigned seat for free (expect a middle seat, but not necessarily) and bring your own food and drink.
Hand Baggage is included. Each passenger can bring 1 piece free of charge. Maximum weight is 10 kg/22lb. on LowFare tickets and 15 kg for Flex tickets. Maximum dimensions are 55 x 40 x 23 cm.
Norwegian Airlines Stockholm ARN – Oakland OAK nonstop
$204.00 USD (1749 SEK) one way ticketing via Norwegian Airlines Sweden website.
Another advantage of buying a one way ticket Stockholm to San Francisco on Norwegian’s Sweden website is the LowFare+ fee is only 550 SEK ($64 USD) compared to $90 to buy LowFare+ on USA website.
Real Cost of Tickets from San Francisco Bay Area to Stockholm
Norwegian Airlines = $463 round trip Oakland OAK – Stockholm Arlanda ARN nonstop flights Fri Jan 20 – Mon Jan 30 (checked bag, seats, food).
Scandinavian Airlines = $680 round trip San Francisco SFO – Newark EWR – Stockholm ARN – Copenhagen CPH – SFO Sat Jan 21 – Mon Jan 30 (Checked bag, seats, and food).
WOW Airlines = $636/$752 round trip San Francisco SFO – Reykjavik, Iceland KEF – Stockholm ARN – KEF – SFO Sat Jan 21 – Mon Jan 30 (one checked bag, seats, no food and only a small carry-on). $752 round trip includes normal size carry-on, one checked bag and seats. Pay inflight for food and drink. One advantage of WOW is you can book a stopover in Iceland.
Norwegian Airlines is the real low fare deal to Europe.
The real opportunity that motivates me to fly Norwegian regularly on one way fares is positioning myself in Europe for potentially far lower priced airline tickets on the major alliance carriers when flying from Europe to San Francisco round trip. This is a good ticketing strategy for travelers who plan to travel to Europe multiple times during the year.
Sample ticket prices when flying Stockholm to San Francisco round trip with all three major alliances this winter.
The low cost of tickets from Europe to the USA is the primary reason all my round trip tickets for the past year of frequent travel to Europe have been tickets starting in Europe. This is not just a Stockholm thing. I flew Bergen to San Francisco two times last September on round trip tickets priced in the $300s, Amsterdam to Las Vegas on American/British Airways for $422 a couple times in early 2016; Stavanger, Norway to San Francisco for $570 round trip in peak season July when even Norwegian and WOW were $700+ one way and back to Europe in September. A couple of weeks ago I flew Salzburg, Austria to Los Angeles on a $493 American Airlines ticket that takes me back to Vienna, Austria in December. I will fly back to San Francisco on SAS from Stockholm on a $472 round trip ticket that takes me back to Riga, Latvia in July 2017.
Norwegian Airlines low cost one way fares are a key part of positioning myself around Europe in cities where there are low ticket prices to California and getting myself back to California when I don’t have a round trip ticket from Europe already lined up.