The airport was dressed up and waiting for the inaugural WOW Air flight to arrive in Pittsburgh from Reykjavik, Iceland. I happened to arrive at PIT myself yesterday and snapped some quick photos of the scene though I couldn’t stay for the ceremonies.
Flights departing Reykjavik, Iceland’s Keflavik airport head for the Steel city daily at 3:10PM landing in Pittsburgh the same day at 5:45PM. Yesterday’s inaugural was delayed 30 minutes and that was of course before the water cannon welcome. Eastbound flights back to Reykjavik from Pittsburgh depart at 6:45PM arriving the next day at 5:00AM. The inaugural return was delayed 2 hours 23 minutes, though it made almost half that back up in the air arriving at 6:29AM. The aircraft is an Airbus A321 and all of WOW’s aircraft are very new.
The stage was set, balloons filled and PR staff from the airport were ready to welcome WOW Air executives and paying customers on the inaugural inbound flight. Some cakes were laid out but not available until the first bag dropped and the customers had landed.
Why Wow Air Matters Even If You Don’t Live in Pittsburgh
My wife and I lived abroad in England and Thailand for roughly four years of a five-year period. In both countries, cheap flights internationally and domestically were abundant through carriers like EasyJet, RyanAir and Air Asia. Affordable flights to destinations near and far enabled us to travel when we didn’t have two pence to rub together.
A similar model has come back to the US through carriers like Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant (originally RyanAir was based on Southwest but took the model to the extreme) but for mostly near destinations with erratic schedules. Carriers like Southwest in the States (30 years ago) broke pricing barriers and reduced costs for travelers while offering direct flights at the same time. However, over the last 30 years Southwest’s model has evolved and needs an update to stay truly inexpensive and RyanAir has really made that possible despite their begrudgingly limited service.
What makes WOW Air exciting for the US market is that $69-99 trans-Atlantic flights are possible, but what makes it important for all markets is that Pittsburgh is a second or third tier city (depending on who you believe).
While I have not been able to find those amazing $69 each-way deals from Pittsburgh yet, I have found round trips from $290 all-in to Iceland as soon as the first week of July. As a result, smaller markets can look forward to cheap and direct flights where more expensive trips with a connection were the only choice. Larger markets like New York and Boston will continue to feel pricing pressure as a result of carriers like Norwegian and WOW and we may never again have an issue finding inexpensive flights across the pond.
Condor will start direct trans-Atlantic service from Pittsburgh to Frankfurt next week, giving hope to those looking for price compression in the market.