For years European airlines like Ryanair have been teasing budget flights from the US to Europe, and while we like their enthusiasm, the continual tease is exhausting. We’ve seen “big announcements” that you’ll soon be crossing the ocean for $10 and we’ll all stop being oppressed by the ridiculous costs of flying. But it never happens. We can travel hack all day, but budget flights to Europe just haven’t really existed.
We’re not used to budget flying here in the States. Unless you’re lucky enough to log in during a glitch in the system and the airlines are forced to honor their error, you’ll be paying hundreds for a flight nearly anywhere.
With our dreams of real actual budget flights that exist and aren’t a lie unanswered for so long, we’d nearly given up hope. Grace briefly turned to Tesla’s Hyperloop for comfort, but you may have noticed this is also bunk right now.
This summer WOW air announced they would be flying from Baltimore to Dublin, and several other locations, for $99 each way. We laughed. Surely this would then be accompanied by an $800 tax, or some other nonsense. But we read through all of the fine print (probably for the first time ever), and the advertised prices were true. Not all of them were $99, but some were $150 or $200 and even those prices are something never seen crossing the ocean.
So this past weekend we took our first flight with WOW air. We booked a trip from Baltimore to Dublin for right around $400 and were nervous to see what budget looks like across the water. We have to admit it looks pretty freaking good. Below, we’ll break down the differences between budget and traditional airlines.
- Baggage : Anytime you’re flying budget you’re going to pay for checked bags. Carry-ons have strict requirements, and they will weigh your backpack to make sure it’s under 10 pounds. Both of us have bags that fit the requirements and I think the free bag is totally doable. If you’re carrying a purse this counts as a separate bag. They might not always catch you, but it’s likely you’ll be asked to put your purse inside your backpack – so make sure you have that option, or you will be paying extra.
- Check-in : Most of us are used to checking in to our flight 24 hours in advance and skipping the check-in desk at the airport. WOWair required check-in at the airport, and doesn’t have an online check in option at all.
- Refreshments: The risky in-flight meal is no longer. Food is offered, but everything comes at a cost. It’s best to carry cash for these in-flight purchases. We had issues with our credit cards working with the offline card terminals.
- Entertainment: You no longer have the option to watch the straight to DVD movies, or the 4 year old blockbusters you’ve seen seven times before. There are no screens, and no music.
- Delays : Sadly the airline has already gotten a reputation for being tardy. Our flight was delayed two hours leaving Baltimore (and then again leaving Iceland by necessity), so unfortunately this one seems to be true. To be fair, last year our United flight was delayed 6 hours – so this isn’t necessarily limited to budget.
- Customer Service : We’d like to introduce the conspiracy that the employees are trained to move at the speed of smell. It seems unlikely that all of the check in desk workers would just be that slow without some sort of training. If you’ve ever flown with Ryanair you know the feeling. Time stands still in those lines.
- Space : We’re told the seating isn’t at spacious – but we maintain that United and other non-budget airlines are just as bad, if not worse.
- Amenities : On both the plane and in the terminals (especially BWI) the services and extras you’re used to may not be there. WiFi isn’t available at all on these flights, even at a cost, and non of us had ever heard of Terminal E at BWI before this flight, and for good reason. We kept cracking jokes about it’s sterile and Soviet appearance, and their was no way to procure cash (either via ATM or cash back) once you’d gone through security. The one restaurant isn’t even large enough to service one delayed flight.
If you’re like us, all of the above are just a blip on the radar. Sure the free food was nice on our previous international flights, but it was still sketchy enough that you risked the need to make a rush visit to the bathroom, and we can’t really think of any airline with stellar customer service. To us, the missing services aren’t worth hundreds of dollars.
But what’s also getting us pretty pumped up is seeing other major airlines slashing prices to compete; $500 flight alerts keep popping up from larger airlines, and we’re hoping this will create at least a little bit of competition.
For us, budget flying across the Atlantic was totally and completely worth it. The first test for WOW air was a success, and we’ll definitely be back!