Tag Archives: cvg

Cincinnati to London Wow Air review

16 Jul

I remember when they first announced that Wow Air was going to offer low-cost flights from Cincinnati to Europe. According to my mom, everyone was talking about it.

“Do you think all the American riff-raff will go to Europe now that it’s cheap?” my mom asked.

“Have you been to Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Street?” I replied. “The American riff-raff is already here.”

Wow Air describes itself as low-cost, which we all know means no-frills and this:

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“It’ll be like riding Easyjet or Ryanair long-haul!” I said. “Do I really want to fly for six hours with no food or movies?”

The answer, I soon found out, was “maybe… when I have no other options.” Because last month I had no other options.

I had planned to fly to London using United miles, but it turns out Saver awards are hard to come by in the summer, especially when you wait until the last minute. BA and Virgin also had no mileage flights, so I decided to give Wow Air a go.

wow air cincinnati to london

These prices are for another date, I just wanted to show the different ticket categories

My one-way ticket from Cincinnati to London Gatwick cost $378. I opted for the Wow Plus ticket because it came with a personal item, carry on bag, and checked bag, plus I got to select my seat. Had I chosen Wow Basic I think I would have paid something like $269, which is stupidly cheap, but it comes with only an under-the-seat personal item. So if you’re one of those people who backpack around Europe with an actual school backpack that fits under an airplane seat, you can really get a deal with Wow!

The Wow Air flight from Cincinnati to Reykjavik leaves at 12:50am, which is tricky, because it means you have to head to the airport the date before your flight. Wow sends multiple text messages and emails to remind you of this. CVG airport is an eerie place at 11 at night — everything is shut down except McDonalds. I mean everything — even the machines that whisk your luggage away at check-in, so they were just stacking the bags up and a guy was loading them onto a cart to take them to the plane.

Even though the airport was dead, Wow check-in was busy. They only have one flight a day, so we were all on the same flight. I read online that they weigh your carry-on and hand luggage, which made packing a stressful experience for me. My carry-on was exactly at the allowed 12kg/26lb and my checked bag was really riding the line of the 20kg/44lb limit. They did not ask me to weigh my wheeled carry on, but they did make me put it in the size gauge, which made me nervous, because I knew it was a half inch off the 22x18x10in limit. It fit, but barely — it actually got stuck and I knocked the entire gauge guide over when I tried to remove it. I placed my checked bag on the scale and it weighed in at 20.8kg. Perhaps because she was nice, or because the queue was so long she wanted to get me through, or because it’s not technically overweight until it hits 21kg, the check-in lady didn’t say anything and merely slapped a tag on it. Wow Air’s policy is to charge an extra $19 per kilo that your bag is overweight, which is better than United’s flat $100 for an overweight bag, but I’m still happy I didn’t have to pay it.

I got to the gate only to find the flight was delayed. This was not a surprise to me, as I had checked flightradar24.com before I left and saw that the flight had not left on time all week. I had a 4-hour layover in Reykjavik so I was in no rush. The plane finally arrived, we boarded relatively quickly, and were off the ground about an hour after they said we would be.

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The seating arrangement is three by three with no TV screens

Normally I can’t sleep sitting up, especially on planes, but because it was two hours past my bedtime already, I immediately passed out and faded in and out of consciousness the entire 6-hour flight. It was by no means good sleep — I kept waking up because my neck hurt or because I could feel my mouth drooping open, but it made the time go by quickly, which was great considering there are no TV screens or free food or beverages.  I didn’t even hear the cart come by with food for purchase or duty free items. When I did get up to go to the bathroom, all the flight attendants were in the back giggling amongst themselves and speaking Icelandic. The red-eye must be an easy flight for them!

When we touched down at Keflavik Airport, the signs pointing towards passport control weren’t very clear, so I ended up queuing at a gate and almost boarded a flight to Edinburgh, but other than that, the arrival process was easy. I got an Iceland stamp in my passport even though I was only there for 4 hours.

That is one of the downsides of taking Wow Air from Cincinnati to London — you have to kill 4 hours at Keflavik Airport. Though as far as airports go, it’s one of the nicest I’ve ever been to. The whole place has a Nordic vibe like it was designed by IKEA (which of course means most of the seating looks nice but isn’t very comfortable). I got a vegan sandwich from Mathus along with a cup of skyr Icelandic yogurt. As much as I’m trying to reduce my dairy consumption, I couldn’t come to Iceland and not try authentic skyr! And I’m so glad I did, it was 10 times better than the Arla brand skyr I used to buy in the UK. I grabbed a table and used the free WiFi to get some work done.

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I wish I had bought this candy!

Another perk of Keflavik Airport — the best-tasting tap water I’ve ever had!

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The time actually went by pretty quickly and before I knew it, it was time to board my flight to London Gatwick. The flight from Reykjavik to London Gatwick takes about 3 hours, and goes by quickly if you pass out, listen to good music, and play on your iPad. I did a combination of the three. We landed around 8pm, but by the time I got through immigration, took the Gatwick Express to Victoria, then took a bus to my flat, I got home around 10pm London time.

Now that I wrote entirely way too much, I’ll try to sum it up with some pros and cons:

Pros:
-It’s the cheapest way to fly to Europe
-You arrive in London in the evening so you can immediately pass out. Most other airlines’ flights arrive early in the morning so you have to struggle the whole day to stay awake (or take a 4-hour nap like I usually do and be jetlagged for a week)
-The Icelandic flight crew are very friendly and begin every announcement with “Dear guests,” which while proper English, always sounds funny. They’re also good looking, or at least they were on my flights, if that kind of thing is important to you
-If you have to have a layover, Keflavik Airport is a nice airport to spend time in, with free WiFi and lots of healthy food options
-My flight from Cincinnati to Reykjavik had a power outlet so I could charge my phone (though there wasn’t one on the flight to London)
-The tap water at Keflavik Airport comes from a glacier and is the best tasting water you’ll ever have
-Wow Air has a sense of humor!
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Cons:
-No free food — you have to pay for everything, even drinks
-No movies or entertainment. This may not be a problem with the Cincinnati to Reykjavik red-eye, but could be on the return trip, which leaves London at 11:40am
-Your flight is probably going to be delayed
-The seats barely recline and you don’t have much leg room
-Bags cost extra, only an under-seat bag is free
-Checked bag weight limit is 20kg/44lb, while every other airline is 23kg/50lb
-You have to kill 4 hours at the airport if you’re traveling on to London
-The flight might be cheap, but Iceland is one of the most expensive countries to visit
-You waste an entire day of traveling, though that’s hard to avoid since there are no direct trans-Atlantic flights out of Cincinnati

Now the important question: would I take it again?

Maybe. While I had a good experience, the bag weight limit could be a deal breaker. I did not go crazy shopping this visit and thought I did not have much stuff, but I was still slightly over the limit. In the winter when I have heavier clothing and am carrying Christmas presents, getting my bag under 44 lbs would be nearly impossible. I’m glad Wow Air is an option, though, and I really would like to actually see Reykjavik beyond its airport sometime!

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Seen in the in-flight magazine. All the reason to visit Iceland!

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An entirely way too long post about my trip back

1 Feb

The last time I flew out of the Cincinnati airport (which is located in Kentucky) was almost five years ago. According to a Cincinnati Enquirer article, CVG offered non-stop flights to 129 US cities in 2004, but by 2010 that was cut to 63. CVG was never as hectic as mega-airports like O’Hare or Heathrow, but it saw a steady flow of traffic. Now it’s a dead zone. It’s almost creepy how deserted the place is.

I arrived yesterday, two suitcases in tow, ready to connect in Newark on my way to London.
“Oh man, I hope you can get to Newark,” the guy tagging my bags told me. “The 4 o’clock flight was canceled and they’ve already canceled flights leaving Tuesday.”
I told him I thought the big storm wasn’t coming until Tuesday. The stupid storm was the whole reason I was flying out a day early.
“Yeah, you may be alright,” he said, assuring me that if I could get to Newark, I would get to London.

I headed to security. There were four people ahead of me in line for the one metal detector and … body scanner. In all the flying I’ve been doing — through O’Hare, Heathrow and beyond — I have yet to encounter a body scanner. Figures I would encounter it in Cincinnati.

I nervously pushed my belongings through the x-ray machine.

“Do you have any pockets?” The security officer asked me. I was wearing a pocket-less skirt. I hoped this meant that I would not have to be scanned — there was no possible way I could hide anything in my form-fitting turtleneck, skirt and leggings. But apparently rules are rules. When the officer instructed me to go into the scanner, I told him I wanted the pat down instead. He acted surprised, as if no one had ever asked for it before. He radioed a female officer and the humiliation began. I was watching an episode of “Pawn Stars” the other day in which The Old Man went on about how flying used to be sophisticated and now, well, now it’s just downright degrading. I understand that they can’t just let me through on account of there being no young white female terrorists, but there’s gotta be a better screening process than choosing between a stranger seeing you naked or feeling you up. I had to stand there with my arms out as this officer touched me everywhere — everywhere — with her gloved hands. And then once she was finished she made me stand there while she went to put something into the computer, as if she had to run a test to make sure I was clean. Eventually she let me go. Maybe that’s why few choose the pat down — the scanner is much quicker. I guess you have to choose what you consider the lesser evil. Thanks a lot, underwear bomber.

I made my way through the empty gates and found a seat in front of the TV by the tiny bar. It was not the best decision. I sat there trying to read, but all I heard was “The storm of the century is coming!” and “Airports are already starting to close.” All the TV played was sensationalist weather news. Meanwhile I kept looking out the window at my plane that wasn’t there. More and more time went by and more and more people started to congregate. Everyone scheduled for the inexplicably-canceled 4:00 Newark was bumped to my 6:40. They all seemed to be business people, chatting away on their phones or typing on their laptops. Desperation was in the air. I kept checking my watch, calculating the latest I thought the plane could leave if I was going to catch my 10:05 to London. 6:05, the scheduled boarding time, passed and nothing happened. I was getting more nervous and weather-paranoid with each minute. If this flight were canceled, I’d probably have to wait until the end of the week to fly out. Eventually the plane arrived and we boarded around 6:20. I excitedly went to seat 1A where I quickly realized that 1A is not the best seat on the plane — it might be the worst.

“You got the cold seat!” a lady told me as she headed to the back of the plane. It didn’t dawn on me that being the first seat meant I would be right by the door — the open door. The only cool thing about being up front was that I could see into the cockpit when they had the door open. I was right across from the flight attendant storage area, so I got my drink and pretzels first, but I also had to deal with the flight attendant running back and forth and the ridiculously loud hissing noise coming from the emergency exit across the way. In short, seat 1A is only good if it’s a big plane and you’re in first or business class. Don’t sit there on a tiny express jet. (Although I did get to be the first person off the plane, which has never happened.)

The flight from Newark to London was over half empty. That surprised me as I thought more people would try to catch the last flight before the storm hit, but I guess nobody goes to London on a red-eye in February. I could go into more detail about the trip, but this entry is already too long. I am happy to be back in London but am struggling to keep my eyes open (even after a one- turned four-hour nap). I’ll get you next time, jet lag.