Iceland is a destination I plan to visit at some point in the near future. I’m interested in seeing the Northern Lights and visiting the geothermal Blue Lagoon, among other interests. Its relative close proximity to the East Coast also makes it a very convenient destination.
Inevitably, the topic of WOW comes up. For those who are not familiar, WOW is a low-cost carrier that offers with cheap flights from the east coast to Iceland. From the East Coast, WOW flies from Boston and Baltimore to Reykjavik. Wow! seemed to be rapidly expanding as well. Newark was added last month, and they will be adding Tampa and Pittsburgh to their routes in 2017.
Needless to say, the airline has been generating a lot of buzz whenever it offers its cheap promotional $99 flights to Iceland.
Why I’m Not Inclined to Fly WOW
People always want to know why I don’t want to fly WOW. A recent conversation went this way:
Person: (well-meaning): There are some cheap fares to Iceland. Have you heard of “WOW” airline?
Me: Well, yes, but I don’t want to fly WOW to get to Iceland…
Person: How come?
Me: Well, it’s a low budget airline…
Person: It’s not all bad, Jetblue is a low budget airline too.
Me: Yes I know, but that’s not the reason. I’ve flown Jetblue. I am just not a fan of an airline that nickels and dimes you for everything, and WOW is one those airlines.
(Jetblue is a low-cost carrier, but it never struck me as a carrier that nickel and dime their customers. They operate much like legacy airlines except with newer fleets).
Person: Hmm, so why do you dislike low-cost carriers? Did you have a bad experience?
Everything is Fine…Until It’s Not
I then mentioned my experience with Jetblue when we had to deal with a flight delay due to weather. Knowing that the weather would cause issues, I preemptively called to re-schedule my flight. Sadly, Jetblue’s phone support couldn’t handle the call volume and my call simply disconnected (multiple times) without a chance to talk to a live person. Instead, we ended up having to trek to the airport and wait in extremely long lines to get our flight re-scheduled.
In a similar situation with a larger, fully staffed legacy airline, I have been able to get a live person on the phone, even if it meant an extended wait time. Jetblue is absolutely wonderful when things are going fine. However, it was decidedly not a good experience when things go wrong. This is one of the areas where the legacy airlines shine.
It’s Not Personal against WOW
To be fair, it’s not just WOW that I’m not inclined to fly, though it is the most well-known low-cost carrier to Iceland. Generally speaking:
- Bundled Services: I prefer bundled services. I don’t like to fly on carriers that try to nickel and dime you for everything (WOW has a schedule of fees). I don’t want to worry about a low luggage weight threshold or smaller than usual dimension for carry on bags. I’d also generally avoid airlines that charge ridiculous fees, like charging a fee to select a seat. I am paying to buy a seat on a flight; I should be able to pick a seat.
- Safety: Yes, reputation matters. If an airline nickel and dime their customers, how confident am I that they won’t skimp on other areas to save on costs? While this is an unfair assumption to make against low-cost carriers, it’s an association that low-cost carriers will have to overcome to convince potential passengers to fly with them.
- Frequent Flyer Programs I like to earn miles for my flights. If the cost differential is minimal, I like to choose my preferred/partnered airlines over other airlines.
A Good Value for Some Travelers
I am sure WOW offers a tremendous value for some people (see a trip report). I’m also confident that with the right expectations and no unexpected operational issues, it’s all going to be fine. Obviously, the low-cost pricing is an amazing selling point, though keep in mind that you won’t be paying the advertised base price after fees and taxes.
Interestingly, I don’t personally know anyone who has flown on WOW as most people I knew who recently visited flew via Icelandair. It’s possible that I may change how I feel about WOW airlines down the road. Never say never, as I’ve been wrong before. That said, I don’t anticipate that I will be flying WOW to Iceland anytime soon.
Do you have any hesitation flying on WOW or other low-budget airlines? If you have flown on both Icelandair and WOW to Iceland, what has been your experience? Which airline would you choose again?