Many of the people I talk ‘travel’ to immediately rule out a European vacation. They usually cite price as their main deterrent. Once I tell them they can fly round-trip to certain European cities for as little as $350, their ears perk up.
Norwegian Airlines and Wow Airlines are low-cost-carriers that serve a number of US cities and offer some very cheap flights to Europe. Norwegian Air is already looking to expand with more flights and cities. One of the biggest benefits with these two airlines is the ability to book one-way flights for effectively ‘half’ the price of the round-trip ticket. I know that would seem obvious, but sadly, many of the legacy airlines often charge the same price or even more when booking a European one-way. Cheap one-way flights means that you could use some of your points one-way to Europe with airline A and purchase a $200 ticket home with Norwegian or Wow Air.
I found a non-stop flight from Stockholm, Sweden to Oakland, CA for $123 one-way on Norwegian. For comparison, that is cheaper than any non-stop I could find from the East Coast to Oakland. You can shop for Wow Air and Norwegian Air flights on Google Flights. Keep in mind that peak summer months are going to be more expensive so try to stick to September and October if price is important.
- Norwegian Air flies non-stop to select US cities from these European cities; London-LGW, Paris-CDG, Stockholm, Oslo, and Copenhagen
- Norwegian Air operates at least one route out of these US cities: Oakland, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale
- Wow Air operates all its flights in and out of their hub in Reykjavik, Iceland. You can reach then reach 21 European destinations on Wow Air from their Reykjavik hub.
- Wow Air flies from Iceland non-stop to these North American cities (California cities starting in June): Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore, Boston, Toronto and Montreal
Now, these prices are certainly attractive, but there are additional charges to be aware of. Baggage and seat assignments are the most pricey of the added expenses when traveling with a low-cost-carrier. Here is how the two airlines compare:
Norwegian Air allows one carry-on bag and one personal-item. The carry-on bag can weigh up to 23lbs and must not exceed 21″ x 15″ x 9″. The personal item could be a purse or backpack that must be able to fit under the seat, there is no weight limit for this bag so stuff your heavy items in there. Checked luggage from the US to Europe is 25 gbp or about $35 usd each way. Your best bet is to pay when booking your ticket since prices go up at the airport.
Wow Air has a more restrictive baggage policy which should be taken into account when shopping flights. You are allowed only one free bag that is no more than 21″ x 17″ x 10″ and cannot weigh more than 11lbs. Keeping a bag under 11lbs, especially when traveling overseas, is very tough to do. You can increase the weight allowance of that bag to 26lbs for $44 each way. If you’d prefer to check a bag, that will run you $62 each way for a bag up to 44lbs. If you checked a bag you would also be able to bring your free carry-on up to 11lbs increasing your total weight allowance to 55lbs.
Norwegian Air does charge you a hefty fee if you want to reserve your seat. For a one-way flight to or from the US you will pay $35 to reserve your seat. Most reports say that families or couples can ‘safely’ skip online seat reservations and the Norwegian staff will do their best at the airport to accommodate your seating. There are no guarantees with this so if you want to be 100% sure, you will have to reserve your seats. The only silver lining is that you don’t have to pay extra to reserve an exit row seat with extra legroom, it is first come, first serve.
Wow Air offers a range of seat choices with varying seat costs. Keep in mind these costs are per flight so if you are connecting via their Reykjavik hub these costs will effectively be doubled. Seat prices range from $7 for a basic seat assignment all the way up to $44 for an XXL seat. XXL seats offer 35″ of seat pitch which should make things very comfortable for a 6-7 hour flight. Compare that seat pitch to Southwest’s 31″ of seat pitch. Now, the new flights that are launching to the West Coast will have their own set of prices. Seats from Reykjavik to SFO or LAX will run you $14-$63 respectively.
What if I don’t live in a city that Norwegian or Wow flies to?
If you don’t live in one of the served cities you are not out of luck. Remember, you can always use a positioning flight to get you to one of the cities that Norwegian or Wow serves, even better if you can use points. Southwest flies to all the US cities that Wow and Norwegian serve, minus JFK airport. Southwest does fly to Laguardia airport which still allows you to reach JFK by shuttle bus in 30 minutes for about $15.
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