This is a companion piece to the NEXTpittsburgh article about traveling in Iceland. While that story is more about what to see and do in Iceland, this one focuses on traveling on WOW Air and the direct flight from Pittsburgh to Reykjavik, along with connecting flights. 

Next to the low fares, the best thing about WOW Air might be the stopover option. That allows you to book a trip to any number of European cities where WOW flies and, at little or no extra cost, stop for a visit in the connecting city of Reykjavik on the way.

We had visited Iceland in November on WOW Air via Baltimore or we would have taken advantage of the convenient stopover option on our way to Ireland last month. Instead, we landed at Reykjavik at 5 a.m. after a smooth flight from Pittsburgh and we took off for Dublin 90 minutes later. On time, no hassles.

With the recent boon in tourism in Iceland, Keflavik, the very small but attractive main airport, is undergoing lots of expansion/renovation. It’s already stylish in that cool and sophisticated Nordic way and soon it will be more user-friendly.

If the bathrooms are any benchmark this place will rock. The women’s restrooms feature plenty of private, shiny white rooms—not stalls—with Dyson hand dryers built into the high-tech sinks. (Do not do what I did and suds up then accidentally turn on the dryers instead of the water or you, too, will have soap bubbles fly all over you. Fun!)

Also not to miss—as if you could—are the enormous and very cool bird murals brightening a few of the restroom walls.

You might wonder, as I did, why the restrooms are so vast while the rest of the airport is so small but perhaps things will even out soon. The new main restaurant—more like a cafeteria—is bright and spacious with sandwiches, salads and more, and chilled beer and wine.

There aren’t many gates and seating is at a premium but in four visits to this airport, we were in and out on time.

Note: WOW Air doesn’t board by rows or groups once business class passengers board. There are three price levels at WOW.  The basic level covers only you and a small purse (forget backpacks). If you have a carry-on any larger than a small tote bag, you’ll pay for it. The WOW Plus option includes baggage and cancellation protection. WOW Biz includes all that plus a meal, extra legroom and priority boarding.

As for fares, here’s what we got in a one-way fare search on July 5 for a trip to Iceland leaving PIT on August 20. Bags are $39 each one way.  Double to get the approximate round-trip fare. 

 

One thing to consider with the pricier options: Not only will you get more legroom (the plane is a three seat by three seat configuration) but you will be among the first to exit the flight, making for a shorter trip through customs. We didn’t check luggage and we sailed through customs in under 15 minutes in Reykjavik and then again in Pittsburgh. Impressive, especially in Pittsburgh, but I should point out that we also walked fast as we exited the plane.

If you do check luggage, know that they’re serious about it fitting into the size rack at check-in. The woman in front of us at the WOW check-in in Edinburgh crammed her overstuffed case in with all her might but it wouldn’t fit. She was not happy and said, quite loudly, that she has flown WOW air seven times and this was the first time it didn’t fit. She kept repeating it for what must have been seven times. They were polite but firm. Bye-bye, checked bag.

Waterfall in the Golden Circle of Iceland. Photo by Tracy Certo

As for the flight? The flight attendants—a very attractive bunch, mostly female, with hair pulled back in sleek buns and wearing high heels—were polite and attentive with quick smiles. The bright, magenta interior is more cheerful than most planes but the three-seat configuration on either side of the aisle makes for tight quarters. While everything is for sale, from water and tea ($3) to cocktails and meals, the selection is fairly good and they come around often to scoop up the trash.

Our five-hour and 15-minute flight from Reykjavik to Pittsburgh was not full but the back of the plane was more crowded than the front (another reason to upgrade). From Edinburgh to Reykjavik quite a few middle seats were empty.

As for flight changes, this airline charges far less than most. When we changed our return flight to Reykjavik from Dublin to Edinburgh we paid a $50 change fee plus a $100 flight fee—for two. Wish all airlines were like that.

To read about travel in Iceland, check out Tom O’Connor’s article mentioned above.

The author, fourth back, with her brother's family: Morgan, Peyton, Coleen and in the back, Rich Herbst in the glacier. Photo by Nick Certo.

The author, fourth back, with her brother’s family: Morgan, Peyton, Coleen and Rich Herbst in a fissure in the glacier. Photo by Nick Certo.

The only thing I will add to that is that the three-hour guided glacier walk we took in November was one of the most fun and fascinating adventures I’ve ever experienced. Check out the excellent documentary Chasing Ice before going and ask the guide at Icelandic Mountain Guides any question you want about global warming. Our guide was very knowledgeable and we learned a lot.

Another thing I highly recommend is a visit to a tomato greenhouse.

After a blissful Thanksgiving Day soak in the Secret Lagoon, a geothermal pool about an hour outside of Reykjavik, we were famished and drove to Fridheimar, a tomato greenhouse nearby. There, where we feasted on a buffet of delicious and sweet yellow tomato soup, heaps of homemade bread and a variety of tasty cheese, all of which paired perfectly with an Icelandic IPA.

Thanksgiving never tasted so good.

Like Tom O’Connor, I’m happy to know I can return to Iceland soon and explore more via WOW air. I’d also like to note one other not-so-minor thing. I will be forever grateful to the pilot on our first flight on WOW, from Baltimore to Reykjavik in November. Somewhere over Greenland, as I was sleeping, he announced that the Northern Lights were active and we should make it a point to get to the left side of the plane if we want to see them. I did and at first I thought the wild magenta stripes in the sky were some kind of WOW logo—forgive me, but I was in a mild stupor from the sleeping pill—and then I realized what I was looking at. “Wow” was the first thing out of my mouth. It was the best display of Northern Lights we saw in five days in Reykjavik (where the Northern Lights are only active November through April and it takes a clear sky to view them.)

We checked in with several people who recently traveled on WOW and they all gave the airlines a thumbs up. Let’s hope the good reviews continue. We’re lucky to have them land in Pittsburgh.

Iceland grows all of its tomatoes in greenhouses like this in Fridheimer where the author had a delicious and memorable Thanksgiving meal. Photo by Tracy Certo.