The age of redeeming miles and points for economy class seats to Europe appears to be coming to an end. So many airlines are offering ultra-cheap fares to Europe. At first, it was secondary airports in major metropolitan areas. We continue to see the expansion of these ultra-cheap fares to many more cities.
WOW Air started selling $99 one-way fares to Iceland and $149 one-way fares to Europe from 4 new US cities today. Folks who live in or near Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit at St. Louis are now part of the WOW Air network. Service launches in April/May next year. As has become customary, WOW Air launched the routes today with their ultra-cheap fares.
Each of these cities is a bit different. Historically, I think the new St. Louis service is the most interesting. TWA used to rule the roost in St. Louis, at one point handling 80% of all the flights at the airport. Decades after that massive domestic hub died with TWA, St. Louis has tons of excess space at the airport. I can’t actually tell you the last time St. Louis had nonstop flights overseas. While it’s just Iceland for now, folks in St. Louis will have connections to the entire WOW European route network from there. Call me sentimental, but I get a bit sad every time I fly to or from St. Louis and see those empty concourses. I hope WOW Air brings a little bit of excitement back to the airport.
Detroit is a big hub for Delta and also sees service from a variety of international carriers (Air France, Lufthansa, etc). Will 4 flights a week from WOW Air cause some competition on price? Probably not. But, it will give folks an affordable option. Cincinnati has a flight to Paris but not much else in that direction. And, Cleveland is the step-sister that United abandoned in their merger with Continental.
The Final Two Pennies
It’s interesting to see WOW Air continue expanding into secondary markets. None of these cities would be considered “big”. Detroit is probably the biggest by population, ranking in the top 25 of US cities by population. The rest are in the top 75. Only Cincy and Cleveland can really claim another reasonably sized market within easy driving distance (Columbus). But, there are plenty of people in each of these cities to fill 4 narrow-body aircraft a week.
WOW Air isn’t luxurious. Your knees will be pretty close to the seat in front of you. And, you’ll likely be paying for a checked bag or carry-on unless you can pack really light. But, that’s not the point. Call it the democratization of international travel. Truly affordable fares to places people want to go.
It wouldn’t shock me to see Norwegian Air dropping in some nonstop service to markets like these in the future, especially with all the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft they have on order.
If you live in or near one of these four cities, start planning a trip! While WOW Air will feature fare sales from time-to-time, you won’t see fares lower than today. And, I suspect there will be plenty of demand for the 500 or so seats they’ll be flying to Iceland each a week.
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