First Wow Flight Leaves Israel, but Not All Fliers Enjoy Its Super-low Fares

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Wow air CEO Skúli Mogensen, standing in front one of the low-cost Icelandic carrier's airplanes.
Wow air CEO Skúli Mogensen

The first flight from Israel of low-cost carrier Wow air left Ben-Gurion International Airport Wednesday, bound for Reykjavik with connections to 10 North American destinations.

If you believed the great prices that Wow advertised in advance, you might think every passenger paid just $319 round-trip to New York, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh or Washington.

In a special introductory offer, good through March 18 next year, airfare is $120 in one direction and $199 in the other.

Those who are prepared to be flexible with their vacation dates can find a separate category on the company website where departure dates and destinations are specified for which the reduced introductory prices that Wow announced are still available.

Israelis have been enjoying cheap airfare since the Open Skies aviation agreement with the European Union went into effect four years ago, but Wow’s advertised prices still caused a stir when tickets went on sale in May.

“No one has ever offered such cheap prices to North America, and we’re proud to bring competition to Israel. I hope it enables people to visit here, and that it will help Israelis to travel,” Wow founder and CEO Skuli Mogensen told a news conference.

But an examination by TheMarker of the fine print of the Icelandic carrier’s fares found the low prices applies only to a few seats on each flight. Once they are filled, the remainder are much more expensive.

In addition, the posted fares do not include a charge for checked luggage. They do include carry-on baggage, but considering that the prices are for the fall and winter in cold-weather destinations, few passengers will be able to make due with a carry-on.

TheMarker examined flight options on Wow and found they were considerably more expensive than the advertised price, and in some cases more than rival airlines.

A week-long trip starting November 14 to Wow’s advertised destinations would cost $700 round-trip, including the cost of checking luggage. A week-long trip from November 23 would be cheaper, at $570 round-trip, but that’s still a lot more than $319.

By comparison, Italian carrier Alitalia charged $600 for the same dates and destinations — and the flights are three hours shorter than on Wow.

December airfares were also relatively high. For a December 12 departure for one week, with checked baggage, the price on Wow was $690, versus $600 for Alitalia.

Israel is the first country outside of Europe and North America to be serviced by Wow, which began flying five years ago.

The carrier operates four flights a week from Ben-Gurion to Reykjavik, on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Each departs at 8:25 A.M. and arrives in Reykjavik at 1:30 P.M. The return flight leaves Reykjavik at 6:15 P.M. and arrives at 4:40 A.M. in Israel. All times are Israeli local time.

The waiting time for connecting flights to and from the United States and Canada is two hours each direction.

The Israel-Iceland flights are on Airbus A321neo airliners, with connecting flights to Los Angeles on Airbus A330. Through spring 2018 Wow serves 33 destinations in Europe, Canada, the United States and the Middle East.