Aviation

You can fly DFW to Europe for $99, but don't let these low-fare rules ruin the trip

What you need to know about Wow Air

The ultra low-cost carrier says it will fly passengers to Reykjavik, Iceland, for $99 one way and to Paris, Frankfurt, London and Barcelona for $149 one way. It's coming to DFW Airport in May 2018.
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The ultra low-cost carrier says it will fly passengers to Reykjavik, Iceland, for $99 one way and to Paris, Frankfurt, London and Barcelona for $149 one way. It's coming to DFW Airport in May 2018.

Dallas Fort Worth Airport travelers may be delighted to know that in some instances, it's now cheaper to fly to Iceland than to El Paso.

A new era of low-fare travel is beginning this summer season at DFW Airport, where three airlines are now offering nonstop service to Reykjavik, Iceland — including round-trip tickets sometimes as low as $99 one way.

Two Iceland-based carriers, Icelandair and Wow air, will begin their flights by the end of the month. And Fort Worth-based American Airlines will launch service to Reykjavik in early June. From Reykjavik-Keflavík International Airport (KEF), the three airlines will offer connections to 39 destinations in Europe and the Middle East.

It's a great way to use Iceland as a jumping-off point for a trip to places such as Paris, possibly for as little as $149 each way.

"The addition of three routes to this beautiful new destination shows the strength of demand for international travel to and from North Texas," John Ackerman, DFW executive vice president of global strategy and development, said in an email.

But flyers need to beware of the potential pitfalls associated with traveling overseas on low-fare tickets.

While American and Icelandair are sure to dazzle customers with promotional offers, it's really Wow air that stands to be the game-changer. Wow air is already becoming known for some amazingly low fares — but because Wow air's business model is a little (actually, a lot) different from other airlines, these basement bargains could also present serious headaches for travelers who aren't prepared for the potential pitfalls.

"About the only thing they don't charge you for is going to the bathroom," said Steve Cosgrove, owner of Dynamic Travel in Southlake.

Specifically, Wow air's low-cost fares require passengers to pay baggage fees for pretty much anything larger than a purse or small backpack. Also, food and drinks — even water — come at an extra cost. And while those things can be minor annoyances on a domestic flight, it's a different story when you're on a seven-hour, overnight journey.

"When you start adding up these fees, a low-cost carrier can cost more than if you book with American," Cosgrove said.

But Cosgrove also understands why low fares to Europe are an attraction for so many travelers.

"If you're going to Europe and your brother lives there, and all you need to pack is an extra T-shirt and underwear, and carry on your own bottle of water and granola in your pocket, then a low-cost air fare can work for you," he said. "But if you're a family of four traveling on a tight schedule, it may not be for you."

Some things to consider.

The following tips are specific to Wow air, which was founded in 2011 and starts service at DFW on May 24, with a 4:10 p.m. departure three times per week (Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays) that is scheduled to arrive in Iceland at 4:45 a.m. local time. Travelers will be aboard an Airbus A330 that holds up to 350 people.

Fees

A quick check of Wow air's website showed there are 49 fees to choose from for a round-trip flight from DFW To Reykjavík. About the only thing you get for free is one carry-on of no more than 22 pounds. (And, yes, travelers at various online sites report that airline employees do weigh the bags at check in.)

Fees for other carry-on bags are $49 to $99, depending upon how big they are and when they are booked (online versus at the airport). Checked bags can cost $69 to $99, and fees apply for each leg of a trip.

Prices can be much cheaper for travelers who bundle the fees and pay for them all at once while buying their ticket online. For example, a check of Wow air's website shows that a trip from DFW to Reykjavik on July 5 booked online would cost $127 one way just for a seat, with only only one small carry-on allowed. However, for $235.72, the same traveler can bring a personal carry-on, a second small carry-on bag and a checked bag. And, for $339.99 (still much lower than a typical one-day fare to Europe), the same ticket includes all those bags free, extra leg room and cancellation protection.

Food

Want something to eat aboard Wow air? A simple baguette is $9.49. A child's pizza is $11.99. A vegan falafel salad is $13.99. Of course, it's fine to buy food and drinks at the airport concessions and bring them aboard.

Cancellations

Wow air will fly out of DFW Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. If your flight is canceled, you may not get out of Texas for a couple of days, which can greatly interrupt whatever your plans are on the other side of the pond. True, the possibility of delays and cancellations is always there at American Airlines and other carriers, although American is part of a larger network that can find seats on other airlines or perhaps get you to your final destination by routing you from DFW through one of its many other European destinations.

Visiting Iceland

One cool thing about this new low-fare trend on flights to Europe is the emergence of Reykjavik as a stopover destination. Visitors can get a glimpse of the Northern Lights or perhaps bathe in the famous Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa. But don't get caught off guard by the prices of many consumer goods in Iceland. In restaurants a sandwich or burger is typically $12 to $15, and a meal with chicken or lamb plus potatoes and a salad can be up to $40, according to Priceoftravel.com.

Iceland Air
Icelandair

So what about Icelandair?

As its name suggests, it's the main airline of Iceland, founded in 1937. Icelandair is more of a traditional, full-service airline than Wow air but also is making inroads in the U.S. market by offering some attractive bargain fares.

For example, a July 5 trip from DFW to Reykjavik would cost $250.40 outbound and $319.61 returning for an economy ticket. That outbound fare can include a free stopover in Iceland for up to three nights — not including hotel, meals, etc.

However, if you want to check a bag or pick a seat with extra leg room, that $250.40 fare will instead cost $295.40. Or, for Icelandair's one-way, $390.40 fare known as "economy flex," you can have a complimentary checked bag, in-flight food and Wi-fi and a refundable fare with no change fee.

Icelandair begins serving DFW on May 31. Flights on a Boeing 757-200 with 183 seats will depart at 4:20 p.m. and arrive at KEF at 5:10 a.m. local time, four days a week (Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays).

And American Airlines?

The Fort Worth-based carrier (and largest in the world) begins service to Reykjavik on June 7. Travelers will ride in a Boeing 757-200 with 176 seats, leaving DFW at 8:20 p.m. and arriving at KEF at 9:15 a.m. local time, seven days per week.

A check of American's website shows that a round-trip flight from DFW to Reykjavik leaving July 5 and returning July 13 could be had for $711. And that fare includes two meals each way and one free checked bag.

Looks like DFW's long-time dominant carrier isn't going to just stand there and watch these Iceland-based carriers invade its turf.

When planning your travel, don't wing it! Check out the airlines that ranked the highest on WalletHub's 2017 report of the best airlines in the industry.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796; @gdickson
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