WOW Air is wowing American travelers with its super cheap fares to Europe, from a handful of major cities.
The discount Icelandic airline will be expanding to 30 more U.S. cities next year, and hopes to lure thousands of other passengers, who could not previously afford to fly overseas.
But Julia Schamer says passengers should know the downsides of deep discount flying before booking.
Schamer and her boyfriend recently flew WOW Air, lured by its $149 one-way flights to Ireland ($300 round-trip).
“We originally decided to fly WOW because it was a discount airline,” Schamer said.
They booked a WOW flight from Chicago to Dublin.
Extra fees, no perks
But they soon learned their $300 round-trip flight was more like a $450 flight after baggage fees, including a fee for a carry-on.
“To check a bag was $75 one way, to carry on was $50,” she said, since it would take two flights to get to Ireland.
On board, she found no movies, no seatback TV screens, and no free meal or free snacks.
“Nothing, no,” she said. “Not even water.”
But that was nothing compared to what happened when it was time to change planes.
All flights transfer in Iceland
Unlike Delta, American or United, WOW Air will not fly directly from U.S. cities to Europe.
All their flights connect in their home city, Reykjavik, Iceland, and that’s where passengers can run into problems, despite the airline’s best intentions.
“We would have landed in Iceland with enough time to catch our connecting flight to Ireland but unfortunately the plane was allowed to leave early,” Schamer said.
The Chicago flight was delayed two hours, she says, so they missed their connecting flight in Reykjavik.
So Schamer and her boyfriend didn’t arrive in Ireland until the next day, and she says their hotel gave away their room.
“So we missed the check-in time,” she said. “Our reservation was canceled, and then we had to find a hotel that night to stay in.”
A lost day, a long layover in Iceland, and unexpected extra fees is what Schamer remembers about her WOW flight.
Schamer says WOW eventually refunded their ticket after the airline was contacted by reporters.
Despite the hassle, WOW is still half the price of mainline airlines.
So it may be worth the hassle. Just know the risks, so you don’t waste your money.