Saying "wow" is the perfect reaction when you see how low transatlantic airfare is dropping thanks to Icelandic carrier WOW Air, which is expanding its discount footprint in the United States rapidly. How about $69 for a one-way ticket between Los Angeles and Copenhagen? If you’ve got a hankering to hit the road in Europe, there’s no better time than now. But don’t be seduced by advertisements for a low fare—sometimes a little homework does the body (and wallet) good.
WOW Air’s forte, much like its primary competitor Icelandair, is connecting North Americans with Europe on cheaper fares than the legacy carriers. The trade-off for lower fares is a stop in the middle of the Atlantic, which for some passengers cuts into inflight sleeping time, but for others is the perfect chance to build in a stopover at one of the hottest destinations at the moment.
Iceland is seeing a renaissance of its own with new hotels popping up like the Canopy by Hilton recently opened in the capital city’s center and pair of new Curio Collection by Hilton properties expected to open soon.
Finding the good deals
The airline’s latest $69 one-way deals wing travelers from LAX and SFO to European cities including Bristol, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, and Stockholm between January 15 and April 5. For just a bit more, flights from Boston and Miami to Amsterdam, Berlin, Frankfurt, London, and Paris cost between $129 and $149 each way. The airline also flies from other North American cities like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Newark for those on the hunt for low fares.
WOW Air saves money by selling tickets mostly through its own web channels, eschewing the fees associated with selling through third-party websites like Kayak or Expedia. Its website is easy to use, but travelers must exercise caution when it comes to adding the frills associated with long-haul travel. Remember the airline charges for advance seat assignments, checked bags, snacks onboard, and larger carry-on items that don’t fit underneath the seat in front of you (or weigh more than 22 pounds).
Keep in mind it is always cheaper to pay for extras online as the price goes up for those waiting to buy things at the airport. It’s worth adding up the fees before pulling the trigger on a ticket; many websites like Secret Flying and The Flight Deal broadcast bargain deals on legacy carriers where these charges are already bundled into the ticket.
Will these sales bring down transatlantic airfare?
Yes and no. On a handful of competitive routes, travelers may find some super deals on legacy carriers, too. These include direct competition between LAX and SFO to Scandinavia, for example.
To compete with Norwegian Air, which is making a play at the big-boy markets with flights from Europe to JFK, Los Angeles, and Orlando among others, WOW Air has matched the Scandinavian carrier’s fares, albeit from many more markets. American was keen to match Norwegian’s low fares when it first launched service, which gave full-service amenities to fliers at the same discount price.
Another famous example of price matching is American’s fares out of Boston to China, where it is competing head-to-head with Hainan Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Sure, American fliers must make a stop, but the prices are just swell enough that it doesn’t matter.
Smart travelers take advantage of the bargains when they find them, no matter where their final destination. Always consider buying separate onward tickets—for example, if the bargain flight goes to Bristol but your final destination is Paris (great advice if you travel light and leave enough time between connecting flights).
If you can fly with small carry-on bags, snack before the flight, and accept a random seat assignment, WOW Air could have just the ticket to get you to Europe for the weekend. If not, keep an eye on any city pair offering a sale because other airlines may just match it and get you a better, more comfortable flight.