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These Summer Europe Flights Are Insanely Cheap (But There’s One Little Problem)

This airline has some of the cheapest summer flights to Europe I’ve seen this year—but there’s a catch. And it’s a big one.

Low-cost transatlantic carrier Wow, based in Iceland, is selling extremely affordable fares to Europe for spring and summer travel. I’ve written about Wow before, but I stumbled upon their bargain-priced offerings again today while searching for a ticket across the pond. For a trip from Newark to Paris in May, Wow kills the competition with flights from $321.40 each way. In July, you can jet to London for as little as $395.68 each way. That’s quite a deal.

But if you’re searching for a flight using traditional mainstream online booking channels or aggregators like Expedia or Kayak, you’re going to miss out on some key info on your plane ticket. Wow keeps fares bargain-basement low via a la carte pricing. Most of the little extras that would normally be included in the cost of an international ticket on a major airline—from seat selection to carry-on bags—cost extra with Wow.

Those extra fees are annoying. However, even if you add $14 for a seat near the front of the plane, $67 for a checked bag, and $38 for an oversize carry-on, sometimes Wow tickets are still the best deals. You just have to be willing to do the math.

Here’s the problem: When I tried booking a Wow flight on Expedia, I was offered very few details on Wow’s many ancillary charges. In a box titled, “Important Flight Information,” Expedia links over to an estimated baggage fees chart with incorrect checked-bag costs listed in euros, and no other information. Expedia does not tell me that I need to pay to select my seat. Expedia does not tell me that heavy purses and carry-on bags of more than 15 lbs. will incur a fee. Most importantly, Expedia does not mention that most of Wow’s ancillary fees cost way more if you wait to pay for them at the airport. Expedia covers its butt with this avowal: “Exceptions may apply, so you should use the link below or contact the airline for more information.”

One checked bag for a flight from the U.S. to Europe paid for during the booking process costs $67 each way. Buy it at the airport and the price jumps to $86. At the gate, you’ll pay $124. An extra-legroom seat costs $33 during the booking process. At the airport, it costs $38. You’ll always want to book your Wow checked bags and make your seat selections during the reservation process. And you can only do this, it appears, when you book with Wow.

Bottom line: Buy Wow via Expedia or any other third-party aggregator and you’ll miss the chance to book your bags and buy your seats at the lowest prices. Search for fares however you want to search for fares. (We recommend our own fare alerts, of course.) Book Wow directly though the airline’s website.

One more thing: You’ll want to pay that extra five bucks for a shot at the seating chart if you don’t want to be stuck in the middle seat on a transatlantic flight.

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(Photo: Amsterdam, Netherlands/Shutterstock)

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