Review: WOW Air Big Seat Reykjavik – Dallas (There was no WOW Factor)

It’s no secret that WOW Air has launched nonstop service from DFW to Reykjavik, Iceland. I recently got a chance to try out their product while returning from a trip to Europe and wanted to talk about the highs and lows of the airline. I was initially planning on flying on their inaugural flight out of Dallas, but that ended up not happening after a series of work related schedule changes. I tried reaching out to WOW Air for a closer look and perhaps partnering with them to write this review, but the airline did not respond.

Purchasing the Ticket:

I purchased the ticket about a couple of weeks before departure and paid a basic fare of 130 USD + 250 USD for a Big Seat.

There were some even better all inclusive fares when I booked my parents’ flights at 450 USD, which included a checked in bag, carry on, and a meal. But by the time I pulled the trigger on my ticket, the business class fare bundles had gone up to $1000 per person.  One of the nice things about WOW Air is that they un-bundle every part of the in-flight experience so that you can pick and choose what you really need. Since my parents and sister were also going to be on the same flight home, I didn’t have to pay for check in luggage and could just buy the basic fare + the Big Seat. Here’s the pricing list, which shows up while checking out in case you are curious to know:

So the airline could present itself to be even greater value when traveling as a family because not everyone may need a checked in bag or carry on.

Check In:

The check in process at Reykjavik was swift and our boarding passes were issued and bags checked in a matter of minutes. There wasn’t anyone in line at 3:30pm Iceland time, probably because of how much WOW charges for check in bags. Reykjavik Airport in general is very small, but well designed with insanely clean restrooms, great dining options, and a decent number of stores. Even though the Icelandair lounge is the only one available at the airport, you will find yourself not really missing a lounge.

Security and Passport Control at KEF 

Security lines at KEF moved extremely fast and we were through fairly quickly, however there was at least a 20 minute waiting line for non-EU citizens at passport control.  So do be aware that in the event that you are leaving the Euro Zone (basically departing the D Gates), you will have to wait in line for a fairly long time. After BREXIT is completed, the line will probably get even longer with all the Brits joining this line (one more benefit they lose I suppose from the decision). I’m sorry for not having any pictures of these areas, we were in a rush to catch our flight and the lines made us a little nervous about missing the flight.

Boarding Process:

After clearing passport control, we arrived at the gate to find this one gigantic line snaking its way around the terminal.

Though the line was single file and organized, it was confusing to tell whether there was a separate line for passengers who paid for the business class bundle, which included priority boarding. Luckily my parents were waived in at the front of the line as soon as they showed their boarding cards. My sister and I however had to wait a good 20 minutes before boarding a bus to take us to the plane. We didn’t really mind the wait in the end given that we had an interesting chat with a fellow globetrotter about her adventures in Europe. It’s always easy to pass time when talking about travel and experiences in new destinations.

After our boarding passes were scanned, we were led to a tightly packed bus, which took us to a remote stand where our WOW Air Airbus A330 was waiting. If there is one thing for sure, you will never miss seeing a WOW Air jet on the tarmac given the bright magenta color of its aircraft. The airline isn’t shy about telling people where they fly to either, with the rhetorical question “Going to Iceland?” stamped on the plane’s fuselage. So there will be no debates or bets on the nationality of this air carrier while stuck and the airport.

After climbing the stairs, it was a left turn toward our seats in 1A and 1C, where we were greeted by the flight attendants who handed us some bottled Icelandic water.

 

The Seat:

WOW Air configures there Big Seat cabin in a 2-3-2 fashion. The seats themselves have and a pop up leg rest and around 37 inches of pitch, which I felt to be quite generous when reclining back. Though the material of the seats themselves are very similar to U.S domestic first class seats, the width of them is perhaps the same as some of the larger economy class seats.

The buttons to recline the seat were located on the immovable armrests. As I mentioned the recline was quite generous, but you really had to push hard to recline the seat after pressing the button. The other annoying part was that the foot rest came up, but didn’t come up enough to serve as anything but this weird slanted recliner rest. It’s hard to describe, but it made the seat super awkward.

As soon as we were seated, the first officer came on to inform of us of our 7h 45 minute flight time to DFW and that we were expecting a relatively smooth ride across the Atlantic. We were apparently still waiting on the handicapped passenger elevator for those who needed assistance boarding the plane. It’s nice to know that they are considerate to the handicapped passengers by bringing them in their own bus and lifting them up.

The WOW Air Store:

The cabin temperature on this flight was noticeably cold, and WOW Air does not provide pillows or blankets for any of its passengers regardless of class of service or bundle. So by the time the flight even took off, half the passengers were freezing and wrapping themselves in whatever they could find. I luckily didn’t have time to put my coat away and nodded off as soon as we started moving.

20 minutes after takeoff, the crew began their in-flight “service” or should I say shop by selling blankets for $20. I couldn’t help but feel like the cabin temperature was kept extremely cool just to maximize sales of these blankets. This was especially evident when the cabin temperature warmed up significantly after the FAs had completed their passes through the cabin with the blanket cart. Capitalism never ceases to rear its head.

While everyone was sleeping, they made an annoying announcement about Duty Free and noisily made there way down the galleys with carts full of duty free goods which included alcoholic beverages and watches.

Entertainment:

After they were done selling blankets, the FAs began to sell iPads loaded with entertainment options. Most people thought the iPads were free and were taking them as the FAs handed them out, but when they asked for a credit card, they looked absolutely confused. Luckily, I came prepared with my Kindle Fire loaded with “Man in the High Castle”.

The Food:

My parents’ fare came with a pre-ordered vegetarian meal, which included some falafel and some steam veggies. It was brought out with a Pepsi Max (WOW Air doesn’t have Coca Cola on board). The meal was not good at all, the falafels were soggy and the vegetables weren’t fresh. I had one bite and I was done. So they probably need to consider replacing their caterer 🙂

Service:

The flight attendants on this flight to DFW were incredibly polite and proactively helpful. They kept coming by and checking on whether passengers needed anything else. In my case, they kept asking if I wanted the leftover falafel meal that we ended up not taking. WOW Air’s shortcoming’s are by no means attributable to the staff as far as I can tell.

My parents had a different opinion though. They had been on the inaugural flight from DFW – KEF on  May 24 and said that flight was among the worst they have ever experienced. None of the amenities offered on this flight were available for purchase and apparently WOW Air refused to cool the aircraft despite the 100+ degree weather in Dallas that day. So my experience could very easily be a one off incident.  


After trying the meal, I ended up dozing off for the better part of the 6.5 hours left in flight time. I woke up to a spectacular sunset outside the window and full moon rising over the clouds. Watching the incredible cloud formations outside certainly made for a great sight. I didn’t have my camera in front of me because of my bulkhead seat, but I managed to capture one picture with all the high clouds.

We arrived in DFW, almost a full hour before schedule, and were out of the airport in less than 30 minutes despite there being no Global Entry line open at 10pm. That pretty much closes out yet another magnificent trip to Europe.


 

Bottom Line:

WOW Air delivers what it promises: cheap fares to the beautiful nation of Iceland. If you expect anything more from your experience, bring your own food, entertainment, pillows, blankets, and drinks. Don’t expect WOW Air to deliver anything but a seat to Iceland. I think the real low point of the entire journey was freezing the passengers so that the airline could sell more blankets. That just leaves a bad taste in my mouth about how far they will go to make money on ancillary fees.

With that being said, WOW Air’s Big Seat did seem to be good value given the price I paid. The seat had fairly decent recline and the seat itself was just plush enough to manage the flight. It certainly beat my AA economy class seat on the flight over in terms of seat comfort, but is better than AA in no other category. The things that could take this seat to the next level is allowing the leg rest to come up a bit higher and the arm rests to be fold-able. This would allow passengers to enjoy the fact that there is no one sitting next to them and perhaps at least enjoy the seat as a recliner. Another important thing to note is that this seat is a big step up from WOW Air’s XXL, XL and regular seats because those are all slimline seats with little to no back support for the long journey over. If you want to take a look at those seats, my friend Andy did a walk through of this plane with more detailed pictures. 

Wishful Thinking:

I still wish there was an airline that delivered lie flat business seats in a dense configuration, at WOW Air prices because that would surely sell a lot of us who don’t care about the food, the alcohol, or the entertainment systems provided by airlines. A man can surely hope that it happens!


Have you flown WOW Air? What are your thoughts?