WOW Air’s Record-Breaking Flight to LA Probably Wasn’t Much Fun for Passengers

Jan 25, 2018

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For some enthusiasts, nothing beats the opportunity to be onboard a record-breaking flight, and the experience can be something to cherish for years to come — I can’t imagine that being the case for customers on this particular WOW Air adventure, however.

Ultra-low-cost carriers like WOW Air have one primary mission — to advertise the lowest possible base airfares while maximizing profits. That means fees for everything, bare-bones amenities and adding in as many seats as they can reasonably get away with. For Tuesday’s flight from Reykjavik, Iceland (KEF) to Los Angeles (LAX), that meant 218 seats squeezed into a new Airbus A321neo, in what was almost certainly the longest A321 passenger flight ever.

[Update, 3/28/2019: WOW Air has ceased operations. Find our ongoing coverage of WOW Air’s collapse, and what affected passengers can do about it, here.]

The A321neo is the newest version of the Airbus single-aisle twinjet, with new engines (hence the name, from “new engine option”) that stretch its range to 7,400 km or 4,600 miles. This flight to LAX pretty much maxed out the airplane’s capability. The A321neoLR or “long range” version, which hasn’t been rolled out yet, will have even more range. Such flights used to be far beyond the capabilities of the A320 and Boeing 737 single-aisle twinjets, but advancements in engine technology have brought impressive fuel economy.

Typically, WOW operates a wide-body A330 on its longest flights, including Los Angeles. Instead, this time around, passengers spent a whopping 8 hours and 40 minutes flying on a plane that’s most often found on much shorter hops to the Northeast, or to some of the airline’s destinations in Europe.

WOW’s narrow-body pitch starts at just 29 inches, compared to a (still-cramped) 31 inches on the more typical A330, which means a tight squeeze for anyone not paying to upgrade to the bulkhead or exit row. Still, the novelty of being on what’s likely to be the world’s longest A321 flight for some time to come counts for something, right?

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