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WOW air vs Icelandair: Getting Cheap Flights To Iceland

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By: John Tunningley

Hey Travel Junkies,

As some of you know, I spent a few weeks in Iceland in May and took advantage of cheap round-trip airfare to get there. I flew Icelandair while my friend who is a photographer out of Los Angeles flew WOW air to get to Reykjavik (KEF).

We both got there safely on relatively uneventful flights, however, we stepped off the planes with vastly different experiences.

Iceland is an interesting mix of Volcanic Activity and a far north location make for some stunning landscapes

First, I’ll break down my experience with Icelandair.

My Icelandair Experience

My planning kicked in to high gear after I found a deal from Los Angeles (LAX) to KEF for $330 for my buddy.

I looked at the WOW air flights out of my home airport of Cincinnati (CVG) and other options at airports near me. Having some friends in Chicago I decided to look at Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and found a cheap flight on Icelandair.

I booked the “Economy Standard” ticket which included a checked bag. But unlike WOW air, even the “Economy Light” tickets come with seat selection, a carry on bag and non-alcoholic beverages on the flight. In short, it’s essentially the economy ticket that we’ve all come to know.

It was a pretty nice experience boarding the plane where I was greeted with a bottle of Icelandic water and had a pillow and blanket waiting for me when I reached my seat.

In addition to having the comforts of most international economy tickets (including a screen in the seatbacks) for a low price, there are “Saga Class” tickets similar to some other international premium economy or domestic first class seats including food, drinks a more comfortable seat— you also get access to the Saga Lounge when departing from KEF.

Iceland air vs wow air

Icelandair’s Saga Class (Photo Courtesy of Icelandair)

These seats are still quite cheap for what they are and offer great value. However, Icelandair has its own points system that’s not a part of any major network and Alaska miles are the only available partner miles to use. To redeem Alaska miles costs anywhere between 22,500 and 40,000 miles for an economy ticket and 50,000 miles for a business ticket.  The base fare for my flight was $329 so even at the lowest redemption point it wasn’t a great use of miles and I would have had to pay the taxes and fees anyway so I opted to pay for the flight instead of redeem miles.

Iceland Air vs Wow air

A typical Icelandair economy cabin on the 767-300 ER. (photo courtesy of Icelandair)

Wow Air vs Iceland Air

Icelandair’s newest set up on their Boeing 737-MAX planes (photo courtesy of Icelandair)

For my trip, including the upgrade to Economy Standard, I paid a total of $550. It’s not the cheapest price I’ve seen to Europe by any means, but it got me there when I needed to meet my friend. As always, when you don’t have flexibility, you can’t be surprised if you don’t get the best possible deal.

Now, let’s take a look what WOW offers and some of the feedback I received from my friend regarding his WOW air experience.

Flying WOW air

WOW booking levels start with the WOW basic fare which is similar to many of our domestic airlines’ basic economy fares. It doesn’t come with a carry-on bag and only includes a personal item and the seat. Everything else is an upgrade with carry-on bags costing about $50, checked bags around $70 and a seat selection setting you back close to $12 on flights from LAX.

Wow air vs iceland air

WOW Air uses a very distinctive magenta paint scheme

To avoid fees on everything, you can step up one level to the WOW plus booking level. At this level, you get many of the same “perks” you would with the Icelandair standard economy. The ticket includes a standard seat, a checked bag and a carry-on bag, however you will still have to pay for drinks onboard (even water).

The last economy fare class is WOW comfy. This fare is similar to WOW plus however it also include a seat with more leg room and the ticket is refundable. It still doesn’t include food or drink on board, however WOW’s top tier, WOW premium does. WOW premium also comes with priority check-in and boarding, and a seat similar to Icelandair’s Saga class.

While the higher fare classes sound pretty nice, my friend stuck with a WOW basic fare to keep his expenses lower and added a reserved seat plus a checked bag both directions to end up with a flight cost of $484.

This is generally quite competitive for a non-stop transatlantic flight from the west coast. It was a couple hundred dollars less than other major carriers when he booked. If he had decided to just stick with his WOW basic fare, his round-trip total cost would have been a measly $320 which is truly amazing.

As for his experience on the plane, it wasn’t terrible but also lacked the extra touch. The biggest issue for him wasn’t seat comfort or even the lack of drinks, instead it was the fact that on a flight that left LAX at 7pm local time and landed at 10:55am local time, they either forgot or chose not to turn off the lights. While I’m not sure this is standard operating procedure, it still didn’t give him a great impression of the flight.

IMG 1896

The interior that greeted my friend (photo courtesy of Michael Rodmaker Photography)

WOW air also didn’t have the most comfortable seats and they had no headrest so, that combined with the lighting, meant he got little to no sleep on the flight. He didn’t complain too much and said that, when it comes down to it, you get what you pay for. Since he was expecting the bare minimum, he wasn’t disappointed.

Bottom Line

While these flights are a relatively cheap way to get to Iceland, both have offerings similar to what you would expect from a major airline—just be ready to pay a little extra to get to that level. Also, in the long run, these flights can get you to a destination full of some of the coolest natural landscapes in the world for a price that’s affordable for many people.

WOW Air vs Iceland Air

One of the most underrated aspects of Reykjavik is the street art everywhere

Just be aware of the expenses in Iceland. I was surprised to pay $20 for a beer and, although the exchange rate is pretty easy to figure out, I spent much more while there than expected.

If you’re booking on WOW air or Icelandair and need to check bags, you may be better off booking a deal with another carrier as the fees add up quickly. If you travel light—especially from the east coast, they just might provide the fare you need.

Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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