PHOTO: Flying to Paris with Wow. (Photo courtesy Wow Air)
I really wondered what it would be like to take a budget airline — where you are literally just paying for a seat on the plane and everything else is extra — would be like traveling all the way to Europe. I have to say, overall, I was pleasantly surprised.
Check In/Security (6/10)
Despite the fact that we had already checked in online, we still had to wait in a long line at the airport check-in to drop off our bag. The line was so long that we sucked up any extra time that we needed to pick up food, water and other necessities that they charge for onboard in advance of the flight.
When booking your Wow Air flight, you will notice that your fare includes just you, a small personal item and a seat on the plane. There are a number of rules for baggage allowances and you pay to bring a carry-on suitcase onto the plane as well as for larger bags underneath the plane. I had read a number of reviews on how strict they were with baggage sizes and allowances, but we didn’t really run into any of that. Each of us brought one backpack, which was free, and we paid to put one large, 20 kilogram suitcase underneath the plane. Backpacks were supposed to be a certain size and weight, as well, but no one checked — that’s not to says they won’t, they just didn’t on our flights.
Wow Air flies out of LAX’s international terminal (TBIT), which has, over the last few years, undergone a renovation. There are a variety of restaurants and shops where you can find everything that you would need for a budget flight.
We didn’t have a lot of time to explore, as we had to head straight to the boarding gate, which was easy to find and quick to reach.
When it comes to seating, you get what you pay for. If you are expecting plush seating with extra space, you shouldn’t be flying Wow in the first place. This is definitely a budget experience. The seats are basically pre-reclined and they aren’t very cushy but I wouldn’t call them uncomfortable.
There is no in-seat entertainment, no video screens or any bells or whistles. However, for each set of two seats, there is a plug where passengers can plug in electronics.
When booking with Wow, travelers have the option to pay extra and choose where on the plane they are seated. We chose not to pay extra. Though we lucked into some extra room on the way to Reykjavik, our three seats were not together on the way to Paris. Instead, they were one behind the other and in the middle of a row — meaning my two daughters would have a stranger on either side them.
That was not going to fly.
Here is where you might think a budget carrier would maybe not be so helpful, because we didn’t pay to guarantee seats. That was not the case at all. The staff did everything they could to find us seats together — and were successful!
They also did the same thing for another family as well as another couple. I thought that this really separated Wow from the pack of budget airlines offering these base-level flights. They could easily have pointed out that, if we wanted to sit together, we needed to pay for that — and they would have been right. Instead, they went out of their way to be helpful.
It was a level of service I frankly sometimes don’t experience on some domestic, legacy carriers.
While there are no amenities to speak of on the flight and you pay for every food item, including water, the service was great. The flight attendants were friendly and helpful to each passenger. They came by frequently to offer food and snacks and seemed genuinely engaged in ensuring everyone had a good flight.
The only advice I would give passengers traveling with Wow is to bring cash. There credit card machines often did not accept passenger’s cards but they accept cash in many different currencies. Even if you don’t plan on buying everything and have a suitcase full of food with you onboard, you may find yourself wanting an extra water, and it’s not free.
Booking the stopover in Iceland with Wow was simple and, if you so desire, you can book tours, transportation and hotels straight with the airline, bundling everything together — and if you still needed to book tours or airport transfers, you could even do this on the plane. It’s a pretty well-oiled machine.
To book the stopover, you choose stopover, instead of one-way or roundtrip, when selecting your flights.
This is definitely a budget experience, so while there is nothing in the way of thrills, it isn’t an uncomfortable experience and actually, in comparison to other carriers, the only thing that really sets wow apart is that you pay for all of your food.
The state of economy-class seating in the airline industry in general provides minimal creature comforts, so I found that paying a low fare and not sacrificing much in the way of comfort was a definite win.
I will do a few things differently, however the next time. I will pre-pay for meals on the plane. Even with the food that we did bring, we were still hungry and mealtime seamed to be a welcome distraction from the boredom of flying. They also ran out of some food items, so we will make sure to bring food onboard, too.