Oh me and my poor poor self! I “had to” go to Europe for family reasons and decided to stop over in Iceland for a few days, using WOW Airlines. And boy am I glad I did: even in wintery February, there is so much to see and do that “wow” hardly suffices as a superlative!
First things first: how to get here. WOW is one of –currently- two “disrupters”, game changers for Transatlantic travel. The other one is Norwegian Air, looks promising as well but I haven’t tried them myself yet. And I only share personal experiences, not write-ups or commercial stories.
World domination in Iceland
WOW operates out of Reykjavik’s Kevlavik Airport (KEF) and offers tremendous stopover options. A few other airlines (e.g. a regional Faroe Islands airline: new bucket list item!) offer limited service in and out of Iceland, but WOW totally dominates the airport. And the fares are crazy low!
Kevlavik is about an hour from Reykjavik by shuttle bus and is expanding and improving, what with the flurry of new activity. The airport is not large and feels friendly, with artsy touches and clean Scando lines.
WOW cost and service
One does get what one pays for. In good old low-cost carrier fashion, WOW’s coach seats are cramped, and baggage and onboard services need to be paid for. They do offer a “Big Seat” option however, similar to the USA’s domestic First Class: not as nice as International Business Class but a huge step up from basic coach.
Even better: the Big Seat is still cheaper than typical legacy carrier coach! My one-way San Francisco – Reykjavik in the Big Seat was like US$450. The seat is spacious and comes with 1 free bag – per March 1st 2018, 2 free bags – plus perks like advance seat selection and priority boarding. The on-board service is friendly, with limited but decent quality food and drink options. And the in-flight magazine described the currently ongoing Icelandic Beer Festival! Had I only known! Or did I….
Flying high and wide
WOW is rapidly expanding its fleet of wide-body aircraft. And I have to say, internationally, I much prefer flying a nice big dual-aisle plane versus a single-aisle. The larger plane just feels major league: you’re going somewhere cool and interesting rather than just taking yet another cramped and boring flight. WOW enables easy and affordable access to Europe for North American travelers but of course also the reverse: Europeans wanting to visit North America without paying through the nose.
However, if something goes awry, unlike legacy carriers, WOW won’t have 5 other flights that same day to reschedule you on. And Iceland’s weather in winter can be iffy indeed: WOW sent me several warning emails about potential disruptions and/or cancellation! I got lucky though: the predicted winter storm arrived slower than expected, a few hours after my flight.
Meaning that since I wanted the challenge of using transfer buses rather than taking a cab, I got to experience my first Icelandic flying winds hail storm! No backpack on this trip, so I had to roll my bag over icy, snowy and wet sidewalks through slashing hail to my guesthouse but hey, it was only 10 minutes.
Straighten up and fly right
WOW offers an excellent route system, adding new destinations continuously. North American airports include Canada’s Montreal and Toronto and the US East Coast’s Boston, New York and DC. In the Midwest, at present it’s Pittsburgh and Chicago, and out West WOW serves Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In Europe, they serve some 20 destinations, including England, Scotland and Ireland. Sorry UK, despite your eternal protestations, I’m counting you as Europe! Although I loved that newspaper headline when the Chunnel opened all those years ago: “Europe No Longer Isolated”. British humor….
Quay to success
The travel lesson here is: yes you can save a ton and add an adventure with an Icelandic stopover. But be smart about it and prepare for air delays of perhaps even a day. Schedule your onward trip in a flexible manner, especially in winter. Don’t plan something as crucial as a cruise right after your intended arrival. When that ship sails, you can hop up and down on the quay all you want: it’s gone! And as for arriving in Iceland in winter: skip the bus, take a cab….
Creature of habit
So! I landed in Iceland: what do I do now? Being a travel addict, the answer is: as much as possible! Stay tuned for upcoming blogs about my adventures doing the Golden Circle, a Northern Lights tour, Lava Tunnel exploration and of course: enjoying the creature comforts of the Blue Lagoon!
My travel blog “Con’s Corner” takes a sometimes irreverent look at 4+ decades of travel in the British Isles. My trips are real: no months of staging the perfect photo, no waiting for the perfect weather, no Photoshopping, no promo story in exchange for a freebie: I pay full fare. It’s true travel. Note that the company does not necessarily share my opinions and views. In fact, they may be shaking their heads. The photography is mine (except where credited as noted), as are all typos, grammatical errors, and odd expressions. It’s a blog, people, not literature! I also accept full responsibility for any puns, varying on a scale from hilarious to ouch… Be all that as it may, I intend to keep at it until I get it right. Con Jager, Santa Rosa, USA.
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