Travel prices are rarely cheap and flying across the Atlantic Ocean can be very expensive. And Iceland's Wow Air is looking to bring discount prices to customers, starting at a limited time price of $99.
Flights to Europe just became more affordable for American passengers in 2015.
Wow Air, a discount air carrier out of of Iceland, is promising afford fares from Baltimore Washington International Airport and Boston to Reykjavik (Iceland), Copenhagen (Denmark), and London (England).
Washington Post's Roberto A. Ferdman reports some of the fares will cost as little as $99 USD for a round-trip ticket. Phenomenally priced, the airline promised the slashed cost would only run in a limited capacity.
Skuli Mogensen, Wow Air's chief executive, pointed out that "those are definitely opening, introductory fares." While the company looks to offer the cheapest ticket prices for every round trip, prices will heavily depend on season, fuel prices, and flight vacancies.
"On an occasional basis we hope to be able to introduce similar fares, but those very aggressive. We wouldn't be talking if I had introduced prices more commonly seen in the market, would we?"
A quick search between Boston and Reykjavik showed a $503.81 round trip ticket between May 24 and June 4, 2015. Even Priceline's discounted Icelandair tickets begins at $673.60.
According to bestfares.com's CEO Tom Parsons, "Paying even $200 for a one-way flight to, say, London, is unheard of." He said, "It just doesn't exist." Parsons believes the round trip prices between Boston and Reykjavik are typically around $600 for a March 2015 trip.
Anyone who has recently looked at travel prices between American and European hubs will agree. A one-way ticket between Atlanta and Frankfurt, Germany, can cost around $2300. However, the limitation on locations will make the deals very difficult for many people not located in the metropolitan areas.
So how can Wow Air offer such amazing prices?
The devil is in the details, of course. Ferdman notes that a trip "will come with little more than a seat, mini-tray table, and 11 pound carry-on." In fact, the price of luggage may cause some pause. "A carry-on will cost an extra $29 when booked online, or an additional $48 when done so at the airport." And if you plan on checking luggage, put more cash aside since each piece is $48 (online) or $67 (counter check-in).
If a traveler is looking for extra leg room, a pre-assigned seat, food, or any other sort of creature comfort, then expect to raise the price. However, Wow Air's director of communications, Svanhvít Fridriksdóttir, said the space between seats will be between 30 and 36 inches on an Airbus A320. That's more room than competition Spirit Airlines offers at only 28 inches, which is even lower than the industry standard of 31 inches.
The airline hopes efficient operations, online marketing and sales, and reliable but limited airplanes will keep prices down. Mogensen believes "we have extremely good aircraft utilization."
And the airline plans to frequently test the theory out. "Within one 24-hour cycle, a single airplane will fly from Iceland to Boston, back to Iceland, and continue to London, and then back to Iceland, each time full of passengers."
While the company is positive on the future, industry critics do not see the sustainability long term. The 5.5 hour flight between Boston and Reykjavik may put customers off, as well as the potentially disastrous result if off-schedule. With limited aircrafts, a late flight will have a deeper ripple effect than a larger service that can reroute passengers on other incoming flights.
However, Bob Mann, an aviation industry analyst at R.W. Mann and Co. Consulting, feels one advantage is the fact the airlines is based in Iceland, giving a midway point to refuel between the last leg of flight. "As you go shorter and shorter distances, you can ferry less fuel, and save money."
Mogensen agreed with Mann about the easy of hub location. "The long haul low cost model hasn't really been implemented because it's hard to achieve the utilization needed. That is, unless you have a hub in the middle. And Iceland is perfectly suited.”
Mann carefully points out that popular Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair has considered transatlantic flights for years, but never quite made the final leap. "If anybody was going to do it, and anybody had the greatest potential to succeed, it would be them. And yet they've decided it's not in the cards. That's a cautionary tale, I'd said."
Wow Air is still optimistic and looking at the long picture. The company hopes to expand to at least four more American destination and to be flying a total of ten airplanes by 2016. Given the booked dates already, Wow Air seems to be onto something.
"If you think you can make it Europe with an 11 pound bag, Wow Air offers a fantastic deal," Parsons definitely see the potential in the discount carrier, which will be useful for students, tourists, and business people alike.
"Even with their extras, you would still end up flying for a lot cheaper than with other carriers.