The Wow Factor: Is the Budget Airline Worth It?

Wow Air seems to be the saving grace for broke-twenty somethings everywhere looking to fulfill their wanderlust, but are you actually getting a deal? Let’s break this down into three categories

a)Availability: Will Wow take you where you want to go?
b)Price: are their prices lower when all is said and done?
c)Quality: customer service?

The Good
a) I was pleasantly surprised to see the selection of destinations offered by Wow. Most major cities on the American East Coast and Central Canada (Boston, New York, Toronto and Montreal, etc.) offer Wow flights with destinations in Europe being Milan, Paris and London, among many more. That being said, there are fewer flights per day than would be offered by a large airline. But honestly meh, I am unemployed, so does it really matter whether I fly out on a Monday vs. a Tuesday? No, it does not.

Check out the full route map

The Bad
b) The prices advertised by Wow are just their baseline prices. That amount will only get you on the plane, believe it or not, a seat costs extra (and no, you can’t opt out of buying one). From there, you are charged more to sit at the front of the plane, more for a seat with extra leg room and a TON more for a large seat. If, like me, you happen to be both small and broke, you can walk away with a great deal. My seat ran me an extra 11 bucks, so not too bad. The real kicker is the amount they charge for baggage. Depending on your flight, a carry-on can cost anywhere from $60 – 80 CAD. And that is only if you buy it online, dare you wait until you are in the airport, well that will cost you a service fee of about $30. Don’t even think about trying to check a bag, for that will cost you around $100 CAD, which in some cases is more than your actual flight. You do get a personal item for free, but they are stingy about what counts as a personal item. Every passenger must have their bags cleared as being the correct size for a personal item at check in, backpacks apparently do not count. It took some serious persuasion (and a boldface lie about taking a sweater out to wear on the plane) on my behalf to get my backpack on my flight.

The Ugly
c) Okay, here is where it all goes up in flames: customer service. Wow doesn’t just need to raise their bar when it comes to standards for customer service, they need to get a bar. I was scheduled to fly at 7PM ET from Toronto to Iceland and then Paris on Tuesday June 13/14 (red-eye flight for the win). At around noon on the 13th I received what can only be called a sketchy email from Wow declaring my flight cancelled. The email provided no reason for the cancellation, but instead asked me to insert my personal information into a google doc, and wait for a Wow agent to contact me regarding my options. Of course I didn’t fill this out, because honestly what company would send a Google Doc as a legitimate and secure method of rebooking a flight? Instead, I called Wow and was hung up on twice.  I called the airport and asked if my flight was still going, Pearson Airport confirmed that it was and suggested I try calling Wow again. Eh, no, instead I checked their website, which listed my flight as on-time. At this point I was all proud for spotting what must have been a scam email trying to weasel me out of my flight. Around 2PM, I try to use the online check-in, only to have it insist that I check in at the airport as I am travelling with young children…. Children would be quite the shock to me, so I call Wow to straighten it out. After being on hold for 30 mins I clarify that I do not in fact have children and even manage to pay for my carry-on bag (with a service fee). Cut to me arriving at the airport for 4PM, only to learn my flight was cancelled. I was then handed a phone number for customer service and told to call them. NO ONE working at the Wow desk had any idea why my flight wass cancelled and worse, the board in Pearson still had my flight listed as on-time. Again, I call the customer service line and again they hang up. After 1 hour on hold, I finally speak to an agent, he tells me he can rebook me for the same flight 24 hours later. But informs me that he can not reimburse me for any expenses I might incur by missing connecting flights/trains or scheduled events.

Long story short:
– My flight was cancelled for an unknown reason
– Wow will only refund/ rebook my Wow plane ticket and not the train ticket I missed because of the flight cancellation
– Flight 214 from Toronto to Iceland and then Paris flew on June 13/14, I just wasn’t allowed onboard (overbooked perhaps?)
– Wow’s customer service took 1 hour wait and then I was placed on hold three more times during my conversation
– I do not have a return ticket yet, so you bet I will be calling Wow in hopes that there will be some sort of awesome customer retention plan to entice me to fly with them again. I do not have high hopes.

Would I recommend?

The jury is out on that one. If you have the budget to travel on more expensive airlines with better availability and service, then obviously do so. However, traveling with Wow is better than not traveling at all.

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