For millions of Indians flying West every year, there’s a new airline in town. And, it’s ultra cheap.

Iceland’s trans-Atlantic carrier Wow Air Ehf, which offers low-cost flights via its hub in Reykjavik, is entering India with tickets to the U.S. at $199 starting Dec. 7. That would be the first no-frills option to passengers traveling from the South Asian nation to North America’s eastern seaboard.

Wow Air’s tickets on Airbus SE A330neo aircraft will be priced at half of what full-service carriers like Emirates Airline offer, Chief Executive Officer Skuli Mogensen said in an interview in New Delhi on Tuesday. The fares aren’t just introductory, he said.

“If you look at flights from India to North America, they actually go directly above Iceland,” Mogensen said. “So Iceland is the perfect hub for India to North America traffic. It has a superior connecting time than what people currently use — London, Dubai, Frankfurt or Amsterdam.”

Wow Air is elbowing its way into a market long dominated by Middle Eastern carriers like Emirates and Etihad Airways PJSC, which have used their nearby hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to lure Indians flying West. Wow Air could also get an early-mover advantage in the world’s fastest growing major aviation market, where local budget carriers like IndiGo, operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., and SpiceJet Ltd. are firming up plans to start low-cost, long haul operations.

Emirates, United

Middle-eastern carriers typically offer one of the cheapest fares from India to the U.S. For a flight to New York from New Delhi on June 15, Turkish Airlines was offering the cheapest fare at $420 with a stop in Istanbul, while Emirates was for $510. Air India Ltd. had the cheapest non-stop flight at $660. United Airlines sold tickets at $940, according to online travel agent

Flying passengers across continents and oceans for a fraction of a cost is fast emerging as the next big thing in aviation. Once ridiculed in the industry, the budget model for long-haul flights have gained global traction in recent times, with the rise of a slew of carriers like Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, which transformed itself from flying winter-weary Scandinavians to southern Europe to a global behemoth connecting Oslo to New York and Stockholm to Bangkok.

India will overtake U.K. to become the third-largest aviation market with 278 million passengers by 2025, according to International Air Transport Association. The market will contribute $172 billion to the nation’s economy, more than doubling from the current $72 billion, according to IATA.

Here’s what Wow Air is offering:

  • The New Delhi-Reykjavik leg would take about 10.5 hours, and another 5.5 hours to New York after a two-hour lay over
  • Of the total 365 seats in the aircraft, 42 would be premium
  • All luggage barring a laptop-sized bag will be charged additionally, except for some premium-class seats
  • The carrier will offer connections to 15 North American cities including Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco from India, apart from connecting flights to European cities


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Photo Credit: A member of the Wow Air cabin crew team. The airline will start flying to India later this year. Bloomberg