Are budget airlines worth it when flying long-haul with kids?
We welcome to the blog today Alison from Five Family Adventurers to talk about her experience flying long-haul with budget airline WOW Air.
**Please note as of March 2019 WOW Airlines is insolvent and ceased operating**
This post is part of our Flying with kids series – pop over to see all our family airline reviews and flying advice
Budget Airline WOW: No-Frills, Long Haul Flight With Kids
We recently booked a flight to Iceland with Wow Air. We are a family of five, so the price is always a factor when purchasing airline tickets.
I had been stalking Wow airfares for a while, as we had an upcoming four-day weekend that we could easily stretch into a five-day if needed. If you are not familiar with Wow Air, they are a low-fare airline based out of Iceland serving international destinations in Europe, USA and Asia.
All flights stop in Iceland before reaching their final destination. Passengers have the opportunity to layover up to three days without additional charges before heading to their final destination. Smart on Iceland’s part, right?
My stalking paid off as Wow was running a fall time special, 40% off their already low-fares. I scored tickets for $89 USD each way, less than $200 USD round trip flying from Baltimore Washington International (our home airport) to Iceland, Keflavik. It’s not often you get to fly for that price.
Our tickets were Wow Basic, so nothing was included; not seat assignments, baggage, or food.
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The booking processes with WOW and the creeping increase in prices
The booking was simple. A standard online form, asking for names, addresses, passport info, DOB and emergency contact info. The next page of the booking was to pick seats. It is not necessary to book seats, but if you don’t you will be assigned a seat. We did not want to be split up as a family; with young children, we prefer to have them sitting next to us.
A warning when booking tickets
When booking, make sure you enter all names verbatim per your passport. You cannot go back and change things once you hit “submit.” I thought I had done this, but decided to check prior to the flight as I had read somewhere that if names on tickets do not match passports, Wow might not let you board.
I noticed my middle name was not on my ticket and immediately called Wow to make the change. They were going to charge me $79 USD for the change. After much arguing and fake tears, I got them down to $17.99 USD for the change. That was still almost $3 USD per letter for someone to type 6 letters into a database.
I took to Twitter to complain, but it didn’t seem to do anything. I was still stuck with an additional $17.99 for our overall cost. Buyer beware and double-check.
Luggage on WOW
Baggage is an additional cost on Wow. Checked luggage is $49 USD extra for one bag, $98 USD for two bags each way. That’s if you pre-book luggage online. The price goes up if you pay for it at the airport.
I figured we could all easily pack ourselves in carry-ons, as the trip was only 4 days. But carry-ons are also an additional cost. One bag is $39 USD each way if you book online. So, if each of us took our own carry-on, it would add an additional $400 USD total, for both ways, to our travel budget.
On principle (and pocketbook), we chose to pack in daypacks that would fit under the seat and not pay for checked or carry on luggage.
Under the seat bags are free, but there’s a catch: Bags under the seat cannot be more than 42x32x25cm/ 17x13x10in (10kg/22 lbs). Wow is strict! If they notice (they do), that you haven’t checked or paid for any luggage, they will check your bag size and weight before getting on the flight.
Seating on WOW
There are four choices for seat selection:
- Wow Standard, a standard seat towards the back;
- Wow Plus, a standard seat located closer to the front of the plane;
- Wow Comfy, which offers fliers extra leg room; and
- Wow Premium, a big seat included when you book a ticket through a premium plan. You can also buy these larger seats for extra.
We paid $7 USD per seat each way. These are the standard seats located towards the back. No power jacks, no in-flight entertainment, and very basic seats. The seats are fine, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to say comfortable.
Boarding on WOW
Boarding was easy. Those passengers who purchased Wow Premium were given priority. Those travellers got pre-boarding, meals, large seats and treated better than the rest of us.
Families travelling with young kids were also allowed to board prior to general boarding. It’s always been my philosophy to wait until the last minute to board a plane with young kids. As you know it’s hard for kids to sit for a long time, so why board early and make them sit those extra twenty minutes?
Related Reading: Getting to your flight with kids
Service on board WOW
Wow is a low-fare airline. No meals are included in the fare, and no onboard entertainment of any type is offered. You even need to purchase a glass of water if you want it.
There’s an array of beverages and meals for purchase. Since we didn’t buy anything, we found that the service was fine, because there wasn’t any. The only service provided was making sure our seatbelts were fastened, tray-tables stowed, and bags placed under the seats in front of us.
Entertainment, Sleeping and Meals
There is no WIFI or in-seat entertainment. We downloaded movies and TV shows onto the kids’ devices and hoped they would catch some zzz’s on the way. Bring some games, books, but remember that if you are packing light like we did, your options are limited. You may have to throw screen time rules out the window if you chose to pack light to avoid additional costs.
Our flight was an evening flight, which some find less desirable, but served us fine. We had dinner and stocked up on snacks and water before we boarded.
If your flight is during a mealtime, make sure to board prepared with a meal so kids won’t be hungry. Our kids did manage to sleep a couple of hours on the flight until the captain announced the Northern Lights were visible out the windows. That was cool.
We have never used any type of sleep aides (non-pharmaceutical) when flying with our kids at any age and just dealt with whatever sleep the did or did not get upon arrival at our destination.
Overall Flight Experience with WOW Air
Our flight was completely non-eventful. It was delayed by 30 minutes but still arrived on time. The ride was smooth and the service was non-existent.
We did experience one minor incident that I managed to bargain down from $79 USD to $17.99 USD. That was the only issue.
As we were leaving Keflavik, Iceland, the check-in lines at Wow were enormous. Keep that in mind if checking in bags. Fortunately, we didn’t wait in line, as we weren’t..
We would fly Wow again. We know what to expect, which is not much. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience, just a very basic experience. Wow got us to where we wanted to go, at an excellent price. That is good enough with me.
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You can read more family flying adventures and airline reviews on our family airline reviews homepage and don’t forget to check out our Flying with kids series which is packed with family travel flying information and advice.
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