Icelandic discounter known for $99 fares to fly to L.A., San Francisco
The Icelandic discounter that’s made headlines by offering $99 one-way fares to Europe is expanding its U.S. footprint.
WOW Air announced on Monday that it will begin flying to the West Coast of the United States next summer, launching nonstop service from both San Francisco and Los Angeles to its main hub near Reykjavik. WOW did not reveal a precise launch date, saying ticket sales would begin in January.
The new routes would give WOW six destinations in North America, including four in the USA. WOW’s existing U.S. cities are Baltimore/Washington and Boston. WOW will launch service to the Canadian cities of Montreal and Toronto in May.
“We are thrilled to add Los Angeles and San Francisco to our fast growing network. This is a game-changer for WOW air as we cement ourselves as the industry leader in the ultra-low-cost long haul category,” Skúli Mogensen, WOW’s founder and CEO, says in a statement.
WOW, which launched commercial service in 2011, has so far operated a fleet of Airbus A320 and A321 narrowbody planes. But to add the long-haul routes between Iceland and the U.S. West Coast, WOW will add three Airbus A330-300 widebody jets to its fleet. The airline will fly the aircraft with 340 seats in an all-economy class configuration.
“With the addition of these long-range A330-300 aircraft to our fleet, we will be able to offer fares from Europe to the West Coast of the United States far cheaper than our competitors whilst maintaining great service with a smile, as we did with our routes to Boston, Baltimore/Washington D.C., Toronto and Montreal,” Mogensen says.
As for the new California routes, WOW plans to fly to San Francisco five days a week and to Los Angeles four times a week.
WOW announced in 2014 that it would begin flying from the U.S. in 2015 with flights from Baltimore/Washington and Boston. The carrier generated headlines by selling flights on those routes for as low as $228 round-trip — including taxes — for flights to Iceland on connecting itineraries to destinations like London, Paris and Amsterdam.
Still, as an "ultra" low-cost carrier, WOW's customers will likely find it difficult to avoid paying additional charges. WOW charges for everything from checking a bag (starts at $48) to requesting an advance seat assignment ($3 to $38 per flight). Small carry-on bags are free, but bags weighing more than 11 pounds will cost at least $29 to bring on board.
And, while the carrier's previous $99 sale fares to Europe drew much attention, WOW's return flights to the U.S. were offered at higher prices. Still, round-trip fares were available for anywhere from $228 to $350 and up during those recent sales from BWI and Boston.