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As someone who loves to travel and who lives abroad, I often try out budget airlines that fly between Europe and the United States. On my most recent trip back home, I flew with WOW airlines, a budget Icelandic airline between Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) and New York City (JFK). On the way home, I flew from New York city to Schiphol Airport with WOWAir.
I have not been compensated at all for this review, but I thought that an honest review of WOW air would be helpful for anyone looking for an affordable flight to/from Europe or the United States, even if you’re not visiting Iceland.
Why I went with WOW air
I recently flew back to the United States for my post-elopement wedding celebration. As we were already spending quite a bit on the actual celebration in Asheville, North Carolina, I decided to get a bit creative to cut down the costs of getting there. I’m generally not afraid of budget airlines as I love to travel without breaking the bank. I’ve tried out TUI airlines, TAP Portugal, as well as many of the European carriers in the past.
WOW air is a very real airlines and although their fares seem too good to be true, they’re very much real. If you dream of visiting Iceland, Amsterdam, London, or Paris, you can fly for very little with WOW if you live in many major East Coast US cities!
Cost of WOW air tickets
While comparing ticket costs, I ended up checking the prices of tickets on WOW air. We ended up paying around $599 USD (518 euros) round-trip per person about six months in advance with checking a suitcase and paying for one large cabin bag. Compared to flying with KLM to our destination, it was considerably cheaper to fly with WOW, even if it meant that we didn’t get anything on the flight.
A normal flight from Amsterdam to Asheville, North Carolina would have at least $900 per person, including a second flight with another carrier to Asheville. (I’ll write about my experience doing disconnected flights soon!). I was able to cut down the round-trip cost by $800 although I definitely added some misery into the mix when it came to commiting to sleeping in JFK overnight to save money.
You only get your seat with the cost, so you’ll need to pay extra for any bags beyond a small purse or backpack that can fit at your feet. I ended up paying for my larger carry-on bag as well as a suitcase. (I often don’t travel with a suitcase, but as we headed back to the US for a formal party, we needed the extra space for the tuxedo and my dress!) It wasn’t so much extra, but it would be in your interest to minimize your baggage.
I strongly recommend that you check the size of your carry-on with their dimensions. WOW air is very strict about the dimensions and almost every person in front of us who had to fit their rolling carry-on into the small carry-on bin as well as the large carry-on bin failed. We were the only ones who were able to fit our carry-on bag into the large carry-on bin without any issues. (You’ll need to pay on the spot if it doesn’t fit and the large carry-on bag costs extra.)
What to bring with you onboard
If you’re flying from Schiphol airport, be sure to stop into the Albert Heijn for an affordable meal to bring with you onto the plane. I ended up bringing on board a delicious wrap although I also made sure to eat prior to getting on the flight.
I also purchased a large water at the airport after going through security, so that I could avoid purchasing anything on the flight. (You’ll end up paying around 3.50 for a canned beverage or warm beverage on WOW.)
My husband was the one most upset that we didn’t get anything in the air, however I prefer having my own dinner compared to airplane food. The only thing that I wish that we had were drinks, even if it was just water.
In JFK, I recommend bringing your own water bottles as you can refill your bottle in the terminal after going through security. This will save you at least $5 at the terminal. In Amsterdam Schiphol airport, this is also possible although unlike at JFK, the tap water in the bathrooms is safe to drink.
Checking in online was incredibly easy and took just five minutes. Within five minutes, I had my boarding pass downloaded onto my phone. I have to say that the check-in process was incredibly painless!
If you intend to bring your bags on board, I strongly recommend arriving early at the airport to ensure that your carry-on bags fit their dimensions as you will not get away with a larger bag as they’ll check the size at the gate.
Checking our bag
As soon we arrived at Schiphol airport, we were able to quickly check our bag prior to heading through security. This was very painless. One added bonus of flying with WOW is that you won’t pass through passport control until you get to Iceland, so if you’re flying from Amsterdam to New York, you can skip the often long immigration lines at Schiphol.
Compared to TUI and full-fare airlines, seating in economy comfortable, way better than the situation on board TAP Portugal. I’m average height and I was fairly comfortable. My husband (who is about six feet) said he was comfortable, which often doesn’t happen. I’d recommend bringing a neck pillow if you intend to sleep as you’ll end up with a neck cramp otherwise.
There are generally three seats in a row and unless you pay extra, they’re randomly assigned. If you’re with a group, check-in early to ensure that your group can sit closer together. Their planes are quite modern and I loved the purple lights, which made it feel like a disco.
Entertainment on board
… This is where WOW air is budget. There’s absolutely no entertainment on board besides a magazine. I recommend having a few television shows or movies downloaded onto your phone. (You can download Netflix movies offline onto your phone!)
One really nice feature of our WOW flight were the outlets for electronics, including a USB port. There’s also a little shelf where you can put your phone securely to watch movies or television shows on. There’s a reading light above and I ended up reading for most of my flight. The plug is fitted for European and American plugs.
We got very lucky on our way to the United States when we saw the Northern Lights from the air! The captain made an announcement and the whole plane lost it. As we didn’t get to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, I was so happy to actually see the Northern Lights (even though a small plane window).
Transfer in Reykjavik and Passport Control
The transfer process was the bit that I wasn’t so happy with. We didn’t have time to stop over in Iceland, so we continued onto the United States (and Europe on the way back). The scheduled transfers are only about an hour. It seems like a fair amount, but you will need to move through the Reykjavik airport to go through Passport Control onto a plane that is likely already boarding. (I get fairly stressed from tight connections.)
Passport control in Iceland was really well done. The flights are clearly timed to avoid overlap and it’s possible to go through passport control in as little as 5-10 minutes. Lines were quite minimal given that there were a lot of non-EU people on the flight.
Delays on WOWair
On our flight from JFK to AMS, there was a delay. I had heard some complaints about the way that WOW handled delays previously. Our flight was only an hour delayed, so I was quite concerned about making our connection in Reykjavik. In the end, the pilots ended up making up for the delay.
It’s good to remember that EU law dictates that if your flight to/from Europe is delayed more than three hours, you have the right to be reimbursed. Even if you’re not well versed in the law, you can use a number of agencies who will file for you (for a fee).
I found the WOW air experience flying economy to be quite decent. It was extremely well priced given that we flew from Europe to the US on two red eyes (my preferred way of flying Transatlantic). I wish that there had been food and drinks, but bringing my own meant that I had more control over when I would eat as well as what I was eating. I have some issues with lactose, so choosing my own food was actually great.
I would not recommend flying with WOW air for disconnected flights where you continue flying with another airline after landing, but I would recommend WOW air to anyone looking for affordable flights to/from Europe. The company has been rapidly expanding to cover more destinations in the United States as well as Europe. I believe that WOW air is worth it for the price if that is your final destination.