WOW Air Adjusts Their Carry-On Fees, For Better And Worse

Filed Under: WOW Air

WOW Air is the fast growing Icelandic low cost carrier, operating flights from Iceland to many destinations in both North America and Europe. Their goal isn’t simply to offer service to Iceland, but rather to make Iceland a connection point for people traveling between the US and Europe.


Gaurav wrote a review of his WOW Air experience back when the airline first launched, between Boston and Reykjavik. The experience looked good and quirky overall, especially when you factor in how low their fares are.


WOW Air is what we’d probably call an ultra low cost carrier, in the sense that they charge fees for just about everything, from seat assignments, to bags, to food/drinks, etc. Just look at how long their optional fees and charges webpage is. Then again, with fares starting at $99 one-way between the US and Europe, it’s not surprising they also have lots of fees.

Perhaps the most drastic thing has been that WOW Air charges for any carry-on bags over 11 pounds. So even if you travel light, chances are that most people are carrying more than 11 pounds worth of stuff with them, and therefore are paying baggage fees.

Well, it looks like WOW Air has quietly updated their carry-on luggage policy, and it’s both good news and bad news for passengers.

Here’s their old carry-on policy:


Meanwhile here’s their new carry-on policy:


As you can see:

  • WOW Air is doubling their free carry-on allowance — passengers can now carry-on a 10kg/22lbs bag for free, rather than only a 5kg/11lbs bag for free
  • WOW Air is raising their prices for large carry-on bags, from $38.99 to $48.99 if purchased online, or from $48 to $67 if purchased at check-in

Now, the biggest carry-on you can take is 26lbs, which is only 4lbs more than the free carry-on allowance, so on the surface this might seem like a real positive, since realistically many people could travel with just a 22lbs bag. You can only take one carry-on, so it’s not like you can take the 22lbs free carry-on plus the 26lbs paid carry-on — it’s one or the other.

The catch are the size limitations — the small carry-on bag can only be 42 x 32 x 25 cm (~16.5in x ~12.5in x 10in). This is significantly smaller than a typical 20-22″ rollaboard bag.

In other words, if you’re someone who just travels with a small backpack, this is probably good news. Otherwise if you’re someone who travels with a rollaboard this is probably bad news.

What do you make of WOW Air’s carry-on policy changes?

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

  1. 10kg (=22 lbs) is definitely doable—but the dimensions are a challenge. Indeed, it would be difficult to get 10kg of non-liquid items into a bag that size. I did 3 weeks around the world (albeit mostly in moderate to warm climates—no winter clothing) very comfortably last year with 10kg in a Tom Bihn TriStar. It’s a fantastic bag that fits most European budget airlines—but it’s 4″ too long for WOW.

  2. This makes sense. It essentially limits carry-on bags to what you will need on your flight, and valuables, while making you check your luggage. This shoud make for a more pleasant flight and boarding experience.

  3. Ben, I checked in online on our trip from SFO (inaugural flight, no less, but of course no mention of that at all, save for the reporters who took pictures out as the plane departed) and again on the trip back from KEF. With boarding pass on hand, no one ever bugged us about the carry on. We took more than one bag and a large one at that. They do the enforcement at the ticket counter. If you bypass that you’re home free. (Before my flight I read that was the case for other airports as well.) Of course, if you have to check in luggage then it might be a different story because then you have to go through the enforcers to check in.

  4. I like supporting new entrants and all but ….

    Even though I travel a lot in all sorts of airlines, I am not accustomed to worrying about the weight of my hand luggage… in order to know if I can book with WOW air it is almost like I would have to do a dry run packing exercise before booking and measuring the dimensions of my typical carry-on bag with a measuring tape. Not worth the hassle – Especially when competing airlines including ‘two bags included’ Icelandair offer very similar prices (with less than a $50 fare difference). I am Toronto based and right now flights to London are under $350 US roundtrip in economy for the Fall.

  5. We flew WOW a year ago, so it could be different now, but while they did check WEIGHT of bags, they did not AT ALL enforce DIMENSIONS of bags. If they are still that way then this isn’t a problem, you can get away with whatever size you want as long as the weight is fine. They also only checked weight at the counter so in theory you could stash a bunch of stuff off to the side for a few minutes while checking in and put it in your bag after it was weighed at check-in and be fine. Or fill your jacket with stuff because you’ll be going to Iceland and need a heavy coat, so fill the pockets.

  6. The one time I flew WOW from Boston to London via Reykjavik I just had a small backpack that was still over the weight limit. On my way from Boston to London I got charged the fee because I didn’t know any better, but on the way back I had a friend hold my carry-on when I went to the check in counter and I didn’t get charged anything.

  7. I wish airlines would think of more fun and exciting ways to make incremental revenue that drives customer value rather than just takes away from the experience. Example of things I have seen that are great deals and/or just worth doing for the experience:

    – Finnair upgrades to business for 350 EUR
    – Champagne for $15 (Emirates)
    – Air France gourmet meals from top restaurants for 22 EUR
    – Prepay for on board and get 10-20% off (Air Canada)
    – Nice onboard food that is unique and not available elsewhere (Finnair, Icelandair)
    – Hello Kitty Singapore Airlines toy.. 🙂
    – Internet – worth spending as it helps pass the time on board

    Charging me for centimeters of fabric on my backpack is just silly and adds nothing unless I got a mindblowingly cheap fare to begin with.

  8. If only U.S. airlines had the common sense that WOW is displaying with this fee structure, boarding (and security) would not be the nightmare that it has become as a result of their backwards hold baggage fees.

    And flying would be safer without all those heavy bags on top of your head.

  9. I looked into WOW fares a few times for TATL but in the end always decided that the savings are not worth the hassle and inconveniences, and that it is better to just pay ~25% more and fly a real airline. LCC on long haul is still not there.

  10. I think the problem with the long haul LCCs is that once you add on the fees you need to pay, they’re not really much cheaper than paying for a regular airline. As far as I can work out, the best thing they offer is a chance to book a one way flight for a reasonable amount, if you don’t have enough points for a round-trip redemption.

  11. I am very disappointed due to the fact I booked what I thought was an incredibly “WOW!” and fantastic deal via this new air carrier. Then, still in excitement, ran out and purchased the two allowable pieces of luggage – a modest, “industry” standard carry on and the larger checked bag, only to find out two days later that the cm reading really only adjusted to 16.5×12.5×10 inches of ridiculousness that you cannot find in a department store or even online! I should know – I spent 3 whole days searching around, running to TJ Maxx, Marshalls, etc. (an experience I usually participate in with zeal, but felt strangely moronic and uninterested knowing the eventual outcome of coming away empty handed with rash on neck from flipping the store’s gratuitous measuring tape around it while diving for the next hopeful designer label that just might fit the unrealistically idealized bill)! I spent four hours attempting to purchase via Amazon, Jet and straight seller sites with no luck due to my, by then, limited time period as my Wednesday order approached the weekend with an early departure looming and a 3-5 day wait window and no possible expedited shipping (thanks for nuthin’ Jet.Com). Note: It was allllllll a waste of time and made me feel like I should just show up in my proverbial underwear to board! Well, maybe that could be a future selling point of this new hotshot, high disappointment affair…WOW Airlines could hand out faux, fur coats and toasty fake, seal socks as the gimmick feature to get people to leave everything and check their toothbrushes! That way they could focus on their true goal – PROFIT minus people! Geeez!

  12. Notice that their “small” and “large” carry-on bags are essentially around the sizes most airlines call “personal item” and “carry-on”, respectively (though most others don’t usually check the weight). They’re actually a bit more liberal on the dimensional allowances than some, like 22″ x 18″ x 10″ on the “large”, rather than, say, 20 x 14 x 8 (although a lot of airlines don’t really check that, either).

    So, basically, they charge you for others would call a carry-on and checked bag, and you have to decide if whatever you can live with, on those and their other charges, will give you any significant savings overall. A couple, for example, could possibly make do with one shared checked bag, and come out ahead (not with MY wife, certainly, but there surely must be some who could ;-).

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