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What Do Spirit and WOW Air Have in Common?

WOW Air, the Iceland-based no-frills carrier that raised eyebrows with its $99 fares from Boston and Baltimore to Iceland a year ago, now has something in common with Spirit Airlines, the U.S. carrier notorious for its nickel-and-diming and generally customer-unfriendly ways.

Like Spirit, WOW’s business model is based on ultra-low published fares, with fees assessed for everything from carry-on bags ($48) to a reserved seat (up to $12).

And now, according to Skift, WOW is appointing Spirit’s former chief Ben Baldanza to its board of directors. Spirit replaced Baldanza in January in a move generally interpreted as an attempt to stanch the customer ill will generated by Baldanza’s tacky marketing and let-’em-eat-cake attitude toward the airline’s passengers.

RELATED: Flyer Complaints Increased by 30% in 2015. Worst: Spirit

WOW is apparently undeterred by Baldanza’s dodgy reputation among customers, presumably focusing instead on his strategy credentials. According to Skuli Mogensen, WOW’s founder:

I’m delighted to welcome Ben Baldanza to our Board of Directors. The success of his tenure at Spirit Airlines has earned him enormous respect in the airline industry and his expertise and insight will be invaluable as we continue to grow WOW air’s network on both sides of the Atlantic. Ben is someone who understands the needs of a growing ultra-low cost airline and he is passionate, as we are, about offering the opportunity for anyone to travel the world.

In June, WOW will launch new service from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Iceland, connecting to onward flights to 18 destinations in Europe. Tickets are available for sale now, at $99 each way to Iceland, $199 to Europe. Those are wow-worthy fares, to be sure.

So far, WOW has managed to play the fee-for-all game without being dubbed a rapacious bait-and-switcher, as Spirit was perceived during Baldanza’s tenure. WOW customers can only hope the airline won’t follow too much of its new director’s advice. It’s a fine line between WOW and UGH.

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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