I was recently looking for a flight from Oslo to Vienna, when I noticed that Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air had a flight on sale for 99 Norwegian krone. That works out to be just $16 in Australian Dollars. This wasn’t even a super promotional advance-purchase fare – this price was (and still is) available on many dates, and I was able to book at this price less than a week before the flight!
It costs more than $16 to fly somebody 1,390km from Oslo to Vienna. According to the aircraft trip cost formula, the cost of operating this flight would be closer to $86 per passenger. Not to mention, the airport taxes alone that would apply on this ticket are NOK189 (~$30) – which is already higher than the ticket price. Put simply, this ticket was sold at a substantial loss to the airline. So, was the price too good to be true?
I was determined to find out, so I booked a seat. My goal was to make it to Vienna without spending a cent more than the $16 lead-in price. I succeeded… but was it worth it?
|Flight number||W6 2874|
|Route||Oslo (OSL) to Vienna (VIE)|
|Aircraft type||Airbus A321|
|Class of travel||Economy|
|On-time performance||This flight ran 20 minutes late.|
Flight Cost & Wizz Air Booking Process
As I mentioned, this flight cost just NOK99 (~AUD$16).
Of course, Wizz Air does try to up-sell you at every possible opportunity. Their business model is to fill as many seats as they can – even if it means offering below-cost airfares – then to try to extract ancillary revenue from its
captive audience passengers.
When booking on their website, Wizz Air tried to sell me:
- Seat selection ranging from $9 to $22 for an extra-legroom seat
- “Wizz Priority” for $50
- “Auto Check-in” for $2.50
- “WIZZ Flex” for $17
- The ability to check-in at the airport for $17
- An airport transfer at the destination for $19
- Receiving an SMS with my flight details for $1.60
- “On-time guarantee” for $17 (which gives you a €100 credit if your flight is delayed over an hour)
- A 48-hour fare hold for $6
- Checked baggage starting from $27
- Cancellation insurance for $8
- Car rentals
Their website repeatedly warned me that if I didn’t purchase Wizz Priority, I would not be allowed to use the overhead lockers and would be restricted to carrying on one small bag which fits under the seat in front.
I was also invited to join the Wizz Discount Club for NOK419 (~$67), in order to get a generous discount of… nothing.
Online check-in opens 30 days in advance if you’ve paid for a seat, or 48 hours in advance for everybody else. There seems to be two reasons that Wizz Air charges you extra if you don’t check in online… not only does this save them on staff costs, but it also gives them another opportunity to up-sell to you! I was offered all of the aforementioned ancillary services once again when I checked in online.
I was also warned multiple times that I would be randomly allocated a seat if I didn’t pay for one… and that it would cost more to change my seat after completing check-in. Ultimately, I took the risk and ended up with a window seat – which was fine.
When checking in on the Wizz Air website , there was a message that non-EU citizens must go to the Wizz Air check-in desk for a document check or else risk being denied boarding…
I was travelling on an Australian passport, so queued up for 25 minutes at the Wizz Air check-in counter for a document check. When I got to the front of the queue, the staff member (who happened to be an SAS employee working on behalf of Wizz Air) said that he’d never heard of such a requirement and didn’t have any stamp to give me.
(The Wizz Air website still states this requirement, so I reached out to Wizz Air’s customer service department and was told that this was a one-off, and I should still get the document check if I fly with them again.)
Oslo Gardermoen Airport itself is very nice and efficient. It doesn’t have a low-cost carrier terminal, so we boarded through a jetbridge at a regular gate.
Boarding commenced after the scheduled departure time had come and gone, but before the previous flight had actually finished disembarking. Therefore, those passengers that boarded first had to wait in a holding pen for some time.
I should mention that at Wizz Air’s home airport in Budapest, the airport experience is not nearly so pleasant! In Budapest, Wizz Air has its own low-cost
shed terminal which has all the charm of a prison.
The Hard Product
The Wizz Air Airbus A321 cabin interior seemed new, clean and was a striking combination of bright white, blue and hot pink.
My seat had enough padding to not be terrible, but the legroom was tight. There are only 28 inches of seat pitch, which is less than even Ryanair.
Mercifully, I guess, the seats did not recline. And, unlike on Ryanair, there is at least a tray table and literature pocket. I do think that the legroom was still better than on Iberia Express. (Seriously, don’t fly Iberia Express if you’re tall!)
There was no in-seat power, wifi or in-flight entertainment other than a magazine. (I just listened to a podcast on my phone and the time flew by…)
The Soft Product
Being a low-cost carrier, Wizz Air obviously charges extra if you want anything on board. After take-off, the cabin crew came through the aisle to offer snacks and drinks. On today’s flight, the special offer was a free KitKat or bag of peanuts if you purchased a sandwich and drink. (I didn’t buy anything.)
After this, the cabin crew made a long announcement advising us of the in-flight shopping specials on today’s flight.
Halfway through the flight, the captain made the most detailed in-flight announcement I’ve heard for years. It lasted around five minutes, and he told us about the entire flight path in excruciating detail, which runway number we’d taken off from in Oslo, which runway we would land on, when we could expect to see Copenhagen on the right hand side, the outside temperature, and so on. I found this fascinating, although I’m sure many of the other passengers just wanted the pilot to stop talking after a while.
Despite this being a flight from Norway to Austria, the crew were Hungarian and all announcements and cabin service were in English only. Overall, I thought the service was fine – nothing stood out as being particularly good or bad.
Wizz Air A321 Economy Class
There was nothing remarkable about this flight – other than the price. My airfare cost less than the train from Oslo’s city centre to the airport, and the same price as a capsicum-filled baguette at one of the airport cafés.
Sure, most people will probably end up paying more for checked baggage or a snack on board. But if you play by the airline’s rules and don’t mind sitting in a mildly uncomfortable aircraft seat for a couple of hours, Europe’s ultra low-cost airlines make it possible to fly safely at ridiculously low prices.
If the price was right, I would fly with Wizz Air again.