Flying WOW Air to Iceland with Kids
For families thinking of flying budget to the land of fire and ice, here’s our experience flying WOW Air to Iceland with kids!
In the past decade of traveling, I don’t think I’ve seen a travel destination rise to fame the way Iceland has. It went from being a tiny, unknown island in the Arctic that only adventurous travellers would visit, to an extremely popular tourist destination that’s on everyone’s bucket lists today.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have seen pictures of Iceland all over social media and travel blogs. On our trip there this July, we were seriously shocked by the amount of tourists there (in comparison to what we saw on our first visit in September 2011).
According to the UNWTO 2017 tourism report, the number of international arrivals in Iceland skyrocketed from 489,000 in 2010 to 1.79 million in 2017. That’s a huge increase for a country of this size, considering its limited resources and fragile environment.
Iceland owes this success to the amazing marketing efforts of the country’s tourism board, tour operators and of course its airlines. In comparison to how it was 7 years ago, Iceland is now much more accessible, with cheap flights from all over Europe and the US to this tiny Arctic nation.
WOW Air, in particular, has been very successful at pulling the crowds in. Offering ultra-low fares to Iceland and other cities in Europe, the airline is making travel between the US and Europe faster and cheaper than ever before. We were recently invited to fly WOW Air, from Spain to Iceland, with and our 2-year-old toddler, and we wanted to share our experience flying them here with you.
About WOW Air
WOW Air is Iceland’s hip and new budget airline — everything from its branding to the service and booking system is designed to be unique and funky. All the slogans, in-flight magazines and all-purple interior design bring out that fresh and different character that WOW Air has.
The airline was founded in November 2011 and it had its inaugural flight in 2012. Since then, it has grown rapidly to become a hugely popular airline for trans-atlantic services. The airline carried over 400.000 guests in 2013 and was the most punctual airline in Iceland that year. WOW air reached an important milestone in December 2014 when the airline carried its one millionth guest. It is estimated that WOW air’s annual passenger capacity will grow from approximately 1.6 million in 2016 to over 3 million in 2017.
As of September 2017, WOW Air flies to serves 38 destinations across Europe, North America, and Asia. In the US, they operate flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Boston, New York, Miami, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dallas and Detroit. They also fly to Toronto and Montreal in Canada.
In Europe, they have extensive coverage in 22 destinations servicing Iceland including: Dublin, Cork, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, Berlin, Bristol, Brussels, Warsaw, Edinburgh, Barcelona and several other Spanish cities.
What’s Special About WOW Air
WOW Air prides itself for offering the cheapest flights to and from Iceland and across the Atlantic — and it definitely lives up to its promise. And the best thing is that WOW Air does not only offer cheap flights to/from Iceland; it offers cheap flights to just about anywhere in Europe.
During promotional periods, WOW Air has offered tickets from the West Coast of the United States to Europe, and vice versa, for as low as $69.99. However, even without the sale, WOW’s trans-Atlantic flights are generally available for less than $150 each way during off-peak months.
For instance, flights from New York to Reykjavik currently start from $99.99 each way (without taxes and add-ons); from Los Angeles to London from $149.99 each way; and Washington to Barcelona from $239.99 each way. All the prices above are only during off-peak season.
Most trans-atlantic flights from the US to Europe cost at least US$800 return, and many involve at least one stopover. On WOW Air, you can fly from New York to Reykjavik in just six hours, Los Angeles to Reykjavik in nine hours. If you’re flying to other parts of Europe, you’ll have a stopover in Iceland — which you can extend for free on WOW Air (more on that below!).
Flights within Europe are of course even cheaper, with airfares from London to Reykjavik starting from $44.99 each way; Barcelona to Reykjavik starting from US$75.99 each way; and Tel Aviv to Reykjavik from $99.99 each way. Our flight from Alicante to Reykjavik only took four hours each.
WOW Stopover Program
The WOW Stopover is available for free only on return flights between North America and Europe via Iceland in either direction. Read this to learn how to add a stopover to your booking.
There is no additional charge for creating a WOW Stopover in Iceland. However, when booking two separate flight legs instead of a connecting flight with a short layover, each leg can be higher (or lower) priced. It depends on supply and demand for each flight.
Also note that, when entering a new country, airport taxes for that airport could be different between stopping in Iceland and traveling directly via Iceland over the Atlantic ocean.
Adding a stopover gives you the chance to break up long-haul journeys across the Atlantic and experience Iceland at the same time!
Iceland is probably one of my favourite places in the world, because of just how much you can see and experience there. Hike up a glacier, swim between tectonic plates, go whale watching, or drive the Iceland Ring Road if you have the time. It’s a dream come true for active families who like to spend their time in nature.
READ MORE: TRAVELING ICELAND WITH KIDS
What’s the Catch?
WOW Air generally has the cheapest fares, but keep in mind that these are usually the basic fares which don’t include additional fees such as these:
- Carry-on luggage – Each guest is permitted one piece of personal item (such as a laptop bag or a handbag) to carry on with dimensions of 17x13x10in. Extra fees apply if you want to bring something larger like a carry-on suitcase or duffle bag onboard. When you book that online along with your flights, it costs $39.99 per flight. If you get that at check-in, it will set you back at $79.99 each way. This is the first time I’ve heard of airlines charging for carry-on baggage and it’s definitely something most people are not happy about.
- Checked bags – Checked bags are NOT included in the base fare (but included in the WOW Plus fares); so make sure you pack light or pay for it when booking your flights. For a checked bag up to 44lbs or 20kg, it costs $59.99 per flight.
- Seat selection – WOW air features a variety of different seat options, with respective fees. If you don’t reserve seats, you run the chance of being separated from your family. The cheapest seats start at $10.99, but if you want more legroom then their XL Legroom seat starts at $49.99 and their XXL Legroom seat starts at $59.99. You can also opt for the Big Seat (almost like executive class) for $299.99 each way.
Are the Additional Fees Worthwhile?
And yes, all these fees can add up easily. If you want to carry on a small suitcase and get an XL seat, then expect to pay $179.98 extra for your return flights. For those checking in a suitcase and get an XL seat, you’ll have to add $219.98 on top of your return airfare.
Another thing that families need to take note is that infants below two DON’T fly for free on WOW Air. That’s the first time I’ve heard an airline that doesn’t offer free flights for infants (even notorious budget airlines like Tiger Air and Ryan Air provide that for free). Infants travel for a fixed price, depending on where you’re flying. Generally, it’s around 70% of the full fare, but sometimes it can be as cheap as $30 each way. For children from the age of two, you will have to pay full fare.
In spite of all of that, a trip for your family on WOW Air can still end up being cheaper than flying on other airlines. I would suggest booking WOW Plus fares rather than Basic fares, which tend to cost around $100 extra each way, but they include a carry-on bag, check-in bag and a standard seat. That way, the total airfare won’t be much more expensive and you’ll have everything covered.
How Child-Friendly is WOW Air?
Even thought WOW Air is a budget airline, they still give priority to families traveling with kids when boarding the plane. Not every airline does that, and we really appreciated it. Carrying a baby and waiting in line can be really uncomfortable, particularly so for a midnight flight.
That brings me to my next point: The flight time from Alicante to Reykjavik isn’t great for kids though, as it only flies at 1.20am (only one flight per day). For families with young children, that can be a pain — you know how kids are at that hour. Since the flight was only four hours, Kaleya only got pretty much 3.5 hours of sleep that night. That said, we caught up on sleep in our camper van when we arrived (which was great for us that we could pick it up at that hour, for others, it might be hard to check in to a hotel at 5am).
Little Evil looking grumpy at 2am on the plane
Another thing that I didn’t appreciate is that infants below two don’t fly for free on WOW Air. That can be an added cost, on top of the extra charge for checking in baggage and selecting seats. The airline does allow families to carry buggies or strollers free of charge for children. Only one item, however is free, if you wish to take more items with you, charges for special equipment apply.
Besides that, the service onboard was excellent and the staff were more than friendly towards kids. I also found the whole atmosphere and vibes on the flight very upbeat and refreshing. The whole flying experience was made more fun with quirky purple WOW Air carpets and flight attendant uniforms, as well as cheeky phrases printed throughout the planes, including “Only cool kids sit at the back” and “Honk if you’re hungry”.
All in all, WOW Air has made it possible to fly cheaply to Iceland and between Europe and America. They’ve made a world of difference to travel in the region. Iceland is a spectacular country that’s worth visiting at least once in a lifetime — I for one have been there twice and intend to return again and again. The next time, I know who I’ll be flying with. What about you?
READ MORE: A GUIDE TO ICELAND
Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary tickets on WOW Air. As always, all opinions expressed above are my own.
Source: Wild Junket