In November 2015, Icelandic low cost carrier WOW Air announced that they would launch flights between Iceland and Los Angeles/San Francisco as of summer 2016.
What is WOW Air?
For a bit of context, WOW Air only began service to the US last year, with their launch cities being Baltimore and Boston. The airline is as “no frills” as they get, and they charge for everything, including bags, seat assignments, food, etc. That being said, they also have incredible fares, in many cases as low as $99 one-way. Gaurav was kind enough to share his experience flying WOW Air between Boston and Iceland last year, and had positive things to say overall. If you come in with the right mindset, they can represent a fantastic value.
WOW Air isn’t just useful if your final destination is Iceland, but is also useful if you’re trying to travel to Western Europe. They offer connections to over a dozen destinations in Europe, so they’re a cheap way to fly from the US to Western Europe with a stop.
WOW Air’s LAX & SFO flights are now bookable
It’s worth noting that WOW Air’s new flights between Iceland and California are now bookable. These flights will be operated by Airbus A330 aircraft, featuring 340 seats. Presently WOW Air doesn’t have any widebody aircraft, so the ones used for these routes will be the first ones they fly (they use A320s for their US East Coast service, though they can’t make it all the way to the West Coast).
If you want to guess what the configuration will be like, airberlin’s one cabin A330s also feature 340 seats, so that should give you a good idea.
WOW Air’s flights to California will operate with an interesting schedule, via airlineroute.net:
Iceland to San Francisco as of June 9, 2016
This flight will operate 5x weekly with the following schedule:
WW161 Reykjavik to San Francisco departing 3:50PM arriving 5:40PM
WW162 San Francisco to Reykjavik departing 1:20PM arriving 4:40AM (+1 day)
Iceland to Los Angeles as of June 15, 2016
This flight will operate 4x weekly with the following schedule:
WW173 Reykjavik to Los Angeles departing 3:50M arriving 5:50PM
WW174 Los Angeles to Reykjavik departing 12:40PM arriving 4:10AM (+1 day)
As you might notice, these flights have significant downtime in the US, with the planes sitting on the ground for ~19 hours. Why would they schedule flights that way?
It’s the same reason Icelandair has their planes sit on the ground in Seattle for 23 hours every day.
These flights are designed around offering connections between the US and Europe, so they want to time all their flights so they have optimal connections in Iceland. This means all flights from North America arrive around the same time, and then all flights to Europe depart around the same time.
WOW Air could have much better aircraft utilization by turning the plane right around, though it would come at the expense of connection opportunities. And clearly that’s their priority.
What fares does WOW Air have to LAX & SFO?
What kind of fares does WOW Air have for their new LAX & SFO flights? Here’s a sample of the lowest fares by month, as of now:
For example, for travel in the off season (November) you’re looking at paying a minimum of $199 on the outbound and $239 on the return.
That’s a total of $438 roundtrip.
For travel in peak season (August), on the other hand, the cheapest fare is $678 roundtrip.
Generally fares connecting onwards to Europe aren’t significantly more expensive than the fares just between the US and Iceland.
I’d say these fares are fair and quite good, though hardly incredible values, given all the additional fees you’ll pay. I suspect we’ll see some promotional fares over the coming months, though as usual they’ll likely have very limited availability and lots of terms associated with them.
I’m excited to see the WOW Air planes at LAX & SFO. Icelandair has never flown to California, so it’s great to see the two regions finally connected with nonstop flights.
While I understand why the planes will have ~19 hours of downtime in California, that must increase their operating costs significantly, so I imagine we won’t see quite as many “bargain” fares as a result.
Do you plan on taking WOW Air from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Iceland?