The answer is WOW Air. WOW Air is a newer, low cost Icelandic airline. The airline travels from specific cities in the US such as New York, Miami, Washington DC, and San Francisco to Berlin, Barcelona, and Paris, with every flight stopping in Reykjavik. The flights from the US to Europe start as low as $99 one way and $250 round trip. With flights on other airlines to and from the same places ranging double or almost triple these prices, how are they undercutting the big companies and charging so little without making a profit? Simply, they are cutting out every extra cost that isn't necessary. Their seats are smaller than the standard airline size, coming in at about 16.5 inches compared to a normal 17.5 inches. Drinks, including water, are not complementary; a glass of water costs $3. You get one carry-on that must be 11 pounds or less, and every extra bag costs extra. WOW Air only flies in and out of Reykjavik on specific days, so travelers must be open to specific flight days and must be able to plan their trip accordingly. They also have no first class, so the only option is economy. They offer seat upgrades for a slightly higher price, which most people say are worth it, but that could be something to avoid if you are trying to make the flight as cost effective as possible.
Airlines similar to this that cut as many costs as possible are very common domestically, like Allegiant, Spirit, and Frontier. It seems to be uncommon to see low-cost airlines that fly only international, especially one this inexpensive. As one could expect with an airline like this that is more focused on cost cutting and less focused on customer experience, there are mixed reviews.
One positive review from tripadvisor.com said, “I had no problem with this airline as I knew what I was getting before I booked the flight. I followed their rules and came prepared with only 8.5 lbs of carry on luggage that fit their standards. I brought my own entertainment and food/snacks. I do agree that they are usually delayed. In good weather they fly about a half hour to 40 minutes behind schedule but you just have to prepare for that. I carried my own bag so no luggage issues there. Seat was basic but comfortable.”.
Negative reviews are also common, such as, “23 hour flight delay because of a faulty tire. They gave us no information and we got no compensation.” Others also included complaints about delays, the lack of wifi, no free food or water, and limited space in the seats. These issues are legitimate, but it is common to get what you pay for with airlines such as these. People did comment that the customer service from the flight attendants was much better than anticipated.
The ability of airlines like these succeeding despite undercutting more popular airlines depends on the consumers’ preferences. Many customers would much prefer a lower cost to the amenities that come along with flying a more expensive airline. For someone that wants to take a cheap flight to another country, and a very unique travel destination, then this would be worth it. Especially with their flights to other areas in Europe, it can be a great opportunity to get to Europe cheaply, if you are willing to overlook the almost guaranteed delays and the other cost cutting they have done. This is an amazing opportunity for younger people trying to get the opportunity to travel without breaking the bank, as well as families looking for a way to go on an international trip at a low cost. Opportunities like this are allowing people who may not have been able to afford the flight to Iceland and other places in Europe to now be able to, thanks to the free market. The ability of smaller companies to make these changes and assess what is missing from the options at hand and provide that, is a great example of companies utilizing the free market to help provide a much needed service to consumers.
To see a video review of WOW Air, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNbYDNgp5CI
Follow this author on twitter at @shannadnelson