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Wow Air, the irreverent Icelandic discount airline known for its low fares and bare bones service, is expanding to New York City.
The company said Wednesday it will fly daily between Newark Liberty International Airport and Reykjavik beginning in November.
In adding New York, Wow Air, which already serves Boston, San Francisco, Baltimore and Los Angeles, is following a model used successfully for decades by Icelandic Airlines and its successor, Icelandair. Reykjavik is a perfect stopover point between North America and Europe, allowing Iceland’s airlines to sell cheap one-stop itineraries between major U.S cities and European markets like Paris, London and Stockholm. Iceland is also increasingly becoming a tourist destination, which boosts the country’s airlines.
For most of recent history, Icelandair has had this market to itself. But Wow Air, founded by entrepreneur Skuli Mogensen in 2011, is growing quickly. This year it says it will carry more than 1.8 million passengers, more than double as many as in 2015. Outside of the United States, the airline now serves 23 destinations in Europe, as well as Montreal and Toronto.
Wow Air and Icelandair have slightly different models. While Icelandair also undercuts larger European and American airlines on price, it generally offers full services to customers, included in the fare. Wow Air charges for everything, from advance seats, to food to heavier carry-on bags. A passenger on a one-way fare from Baltimore to London with a stop in Reykjavik will pay nearly $50 for a carry-on heavier than 11 pounds. And that’s if the passenger pays in advance. It’s more at the airport.
But base fares can be low. Wow Air said it will charge introductory fares of $99 each way between Newark and Iceland, though only during certain times of the year and on some day days of the week. Travelers who want to go on to Europe will pay as little as $149, one way.
Wow Air is the second discount airline to announce plans to serve Newark this week, following Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air.
More airlines might follow them, as in April, the Federal Aviation Administration loosened requirements over which airlines can serve the airport. Carriers must no longer acquire slots to operate at Newark, as at New York’s JFK and LaGuardia Airports. In most cases, this now means they can launch flights when they wish, provided they find gate space.