When they say “deal”- we jump. But it’s important to examine the merits of a deal before hopping on one. After all, hidden fees can turn a great deal into a $#!T sandwich. WOW Air and Norwegian have found their way into our hearts, wallets and travel plans- but which one actually offers the better deal? Here’s a by the numbers look…

The Base Fares Are Incredibly Compelling From Both Airlines…

Both airlines occasionally offer $69-$99 one way fares between the US and Europe, and regularly have $149 one way fares. Norwegian has offered the lowest deal we’ve seen thus far- coming in at $188 round trip, though WOW Air has stayed close on their heels. You’ll find incredibly low, no frill fares from both. WOW Air now serves more U.S. cities, which is a big move, but Norwegian offers more direct flights- since all WOW Air flights will route via Iceland. Result: tie. 

What’s Included In Basic Fares Is Different For Each Carrier…

It’s important to understand that these advertised sticker prices do not include an advanced seating assignment (you’ll be given one at check in), nor do they include meal or checked bag. With both airlines you’ll be allowed to bring an “item” on board- but the distinctions between the two are massive. Result: play on.

Here’s The Carry On Breakdown For Each Airline…

On these headline fares Norwegian allows a full sized carry on weighing up to 10kg. WOW Air also has a weight limit up to 10kg, but restricts this to a personal item no larger than a laptop bag. For most: it’s impossible to actually take advantage of these fares on WOW Air. Norwegian also (in practice) seems fairly lax about bringing an additional small item along. Result: Norwegian wins by landslide.

Upgraded “+ Fares” From Both Carriers Can Be Good Value…

With both carriers- a “plus” fare will include a seating assignment and checked bag in addition to your carry on allowance. In the case of Norwegian, you’ll also get a meal. When it comes to these fares it’s all about crunching the numbers of what you actually need. Both airlines markup prices between $50-$110 each way for these fares and with the exception of a “meal” they offer the same result. If you need one of these plus fares, it’s highly possible you’ll find better prices on traditional airlines where you can earn miles and other perks. Must compare. Result: play on.

A La Carte Seat, Bag And Meal Options Are Big Factors…

Passengers on both airlines can add a la carte elements such as seat, bag and meals to their super low deals.

Seats: Norwegian charges $30-$45 for seating assignments, while WOW Air charges $8.99. On 737 flights, Norwegian does not charge extra for exit rows with extra legroom, whereas WOW Air charges $19-$39 for extra legroom seats.

Bags: For long haul flights, Norwegian charges $45 for a checked bag up to 20kg each way, and lesser, additional fees for onward connections in Europe, equating to roughly $62 each way. WOW Air charges $59 per segment for a checked bag and a brutal $39 per segment for a full sized carry on.  Result: Norwegian wins on checked bag prices, WOW Air on seat prices.

Outcomes For Each Flight Option…

Same low fare with no checked bags: Norwegian wins.

Same low fare with full sized carry on: Norwegian wins.

Same low fare, no full sized carry on, normal seat assignment: WOW Air wins.

Same low fare, no seat assignment, one checked bag: Norwegian wins.

A Plus Fare With checked bags, seats: case by case price comparison. Benefits are draw.

The Verdict

In most cases, Norwegian offers a value which is more realistic for most travelers. Especially on short trips, it’s entirely possible to live out of a full sized carry on, but any less would be very difficult. Norwegian allowing this without raising the fare is a major deal breaker. We recently survived a $69 Norwegian flight, and even kinda liked it.