After a 15 Year Hiatus, St. Louis Gets First Nonstop Flights to Europe Thanks to WOWAir
At the airline’s peak, Trans World Airlines (TWA) served 3 European destinations from its main hub, St. Louis-Lambert International Airport. Nonstop flights were offered between St. Louis, Missouri and Frankfurt, London-Gatwick, and Paris-Charles De Gaulle. Following American Airlines’ acquisition of TWA, only flights to London-Gatwick remained. In 2003, American Airlines finally pulled the plug on St. Louis’ last remaining Trans-Atlantic route.
For the next 15 years, St. Louis-Lambert International Airport, serving a metropolitan area of nearly 3 million, was without a nonstop flight to Europe. Finally, after 15 years, St. Louis was reconnected with the European continent with new nonstop service to Reykjavik, Iceland on WOWAir.
WOWAir’s Nonstop St. Louis to Reykjavik Service
Announced in August 2017, WOWAir created quite the buzz throughout the St. Louis Area promising sub $100 fares to Iceland and sub $150 fares to London. Flights were slated to begin on May 17th, 2018. In the months leading up to the inaugural flight, St. Louisans quickly booked cheap nonstop flights to Iceland or one-stop flights to mainland Europe.
WOWAir initially announced 4 to 5 times weekly round-trip flights to its main hub at Reykjavik-Keflavik International Airport with additional flights to follow depending on the performance of the airline’s initial summer 2018 flights. Though WOWAir would only offer nonstop flights to Reykjavik, neither the airline nor airport officials expect Iceland to serve as the primary final destination for passengers. This is the case with nearly all of WOWAir’s flights. Iceland serves as a destination for many travelers, however, for WOWAir, Reykjavik serves as the perfect connecting airport for passengers continuing on to destinations in Europe.
What Is WOWAir
WOWAir is an ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) known for offering $99 one-way fares from the United States to Iceland and $149 fares to cities including London and Paris. WOWAir uses essentially the same network strategy as full-service carrier Icelandair; funneling passengers through Iceland’s main international airport. However, unlike Icelandair, passengers on WOWAir are required to pay for nearly every additional service WOWAir offers. Passengers can expect to pay extra for a carry-on bag, checked bag, advanced seat assignment, food and drinks, and flight changes. These extra fees allow airlines like WOWAir to offer such low fares.
Unable to court airlines such as Air France, British Airways, or Lufthansa, officials at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport saw WOWAir as the perfect candidate to fill the airport’s Trans-Atlantic void. WOWAir’s low-fares would appeal to Midwesterners seeking a leisure getaway to Europe but also business travelers looking for a quick way to get from St. Louis to Europe.
Finally, on May 17th, the first WOWAir flight departed St. Louis bound for Europe.
Celebrating The First WOWAir Flights to St. Louis
For over a decade, St. Louisans had been wondering if and when the region would be reconnected with Europe. In recent years, news of similar or smaller sized markets receiving new nonstop flights to Europe only exacerbated the region’s desire for nonstop flights to Europe. That said, following a 15-year wait, the atmosphere in St. Louis-Lambert International Airport’s Terminal 2 was celebratory on the evening of WOWAir’s first flights.
Passengers flying on the inaugural flight arrived at the airport as early as 4 hours before the scheduled departure time. The ticket counter, a normally dull and boring part of any airport was abuzz with excited passengers eager to board the first WOWAir flight.
At gate E29, one of St. Louis-Lambert Airport’s international gates, WOWAir’s signature purple color scheme was found throughout the departure area on celebratory banners, cookies, a cake, balloons, and even airport officials.
Directly across from gate E29 sits the airport’s first common use airport lounge, the Wingtips Lounge. The lounge was offering a special promotional price on day passes to WOWAir passengers and even guests. I decided to visit the lounge for a quick bite to eat. Not surprisingly, many of the lounge’s guests were on the inaugural flight to Iceland that evening. The lounge was hopping with excited passengers. Bartenders even poured WOWtinis and other WOW themed drinks.
Around 7:30 PM, the first-ever nonstop flight from Europe in over 15 years arrived in St. Louis. WOWAir flight 167, operated by TF-DOG an Airbus a321, taxied to the gate following a celebratory water cannon salute.
Though they were coming off of a nearly 7-hour Trans-Atlantic flight, arriving passengers from WOWAir flight 167 were smiling and excited to be apart of the first arriving flight.
Commencement events began shortly after the inbound flight arrived. Airport director, Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, Mayor Lyda Krewson, and WOWAir ground operations director Steve Tarbuck were among speakers at the event. After the commencement speakers finished at the podium, the ribbon and ceremonial cake were cut.
A little over an hour later, the first passengers bound for Iceland boarded WOWAir flight WW168. According to airport officials, the flight was almost completely booked. At 11:21 PM, it was wheels up for the Airbus a321. Among the first passengers were Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, the St. Louis Airport director, and Brian Kinsey, the airport’s marketing and route development director.
Overall – WOWAir Brings Nonstop Flights to Europe Back to St. Louis
As a native St. Louisan, WOWAir’s nonstop flights to Europe mean quite a lot to me. 16 years ago, my family and I flew nonstop from St. Louis to London-Gatwick. For the past 15 years, St. Louisans (myself included) were required to spend thousands of dollars for a one-way ticket connecting through Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington DC to continue on to Europe. WOWAir’s nonstop service allows St. Louisans to fly to Europe for under $400 round-trip and get their quicker than if connecting in the US. Additionally, when one airline can prove that a market is viable, other airlines typically follow. (< Wink-wink)
What do you think of WOWAir’s expansion throughout the United States and beyond? Would you fly WOWAir?