Get to England via Iceland on a budget.
Iceland has become a vacation hot spot for Washington area travelers looking for an adventure that doesn’t break the bank. That’s thanks in large part to budget airline WOW Air, which offers direct flights from major cities like Baltimore as low as $99 (taxes included) one-way. This budget airline also offers flights to more than twenty destinations other than Iceland. So, last May I jumped on board a flight from BWI to Reykjavik, Iceland and then crossed the North Atlantic on WOW’s inaugural flight to Bristol, England. For the most part, this affordable transatlantic travel experience exceeded expectations.
Friendly service and comfort
WOW dubs itself the airline “with the biggest smiles and the lowest prices” and they’re right about the smiles. Nordic flight attendants dressed in head-to-toe purple delivered playful announcements and answered my questions with enthusiasm. It’s rare to find an airline so focused on customer service. They even stopped by and asked if I wanted an iPad to keep me entertained on the flight, pre-loaded with a range of recent movies and TV shows. I gladly accepted the iPad and watched “The King’s Speech” while tasting the bulgar wheat and quinoa “wholesome pot” dinner I’d selected from the in-flight dining menu.
As far as the “lowest prices” claim, the extent of the bargain really depends on when you’re looking and how far in advance you plan. But, from a cursory online search, I found that WOW summer flights to Europe were at least a few hundred dollars less than that of the major American airlines I usually fly. And those $99 flights are not a myth! It’s the way to go when you’re traveling to Iceland. Flights get a little more expensive for other locations.
I was pleasantly surprised by the ample legroom on both flights. Unlike the horror stories you hear about some other budget airlines, I never felt cramped in my seat and was able to fall asleep relatively easily.
Fees for extra services
If you’re really looking to travel on the cheap, I recommend packing light and bringing your own snacks. WOW offers one carry-on bag up to 11 lbs. free of charge, but checked luggage can get expensive. My checked bag (admittedly on the larger side) set me back $65.
Once you’re on board, there will be no free coffee and peanuts. They even charge you for water ($2). But if you know about these charges ahead of time, you can still travel smart. And the money you save overall will be worth it.
While the quinoa pot was an unexpected menu item, it lacked flavor; however, I appreciated that in-flight dining offered healthy, gluten-free options and a pretty extensive menu including items you don’t usually find in the States. A fellow traveler tried the flatbread with smoked lamb ($5.60) and wasn’t impressed, but I heard excellent feedback on the ham and cheese baguette ($7.74). I found the Icelandic licorice chocolates and Gull beer to be delicious, and the coffee was nice and strong. Next time, I’ll try the Icelandic yogurt and liquors. For those American travelers who just want a taste of home, options like cheese pizza ($8), Oreos ($4) and Pepsi and Pringles ($7.19) will keep you sated.
Even though you have to pay for everything, including coffee and water, the prices are pretty reasonable for what you get. Since I was only passing through Reykjavík on my way to England, it was nice to have a taste of Iceland without ever leaving the plane.
Overall, my first flight with WOW was a pleasant experience followed by a memorable trip to the UK. Stay tuned for my picks on where to go and what to do when traveling Southwest England!