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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

British travellers to fly from London to USA for less than £100 for first time

Icelandic airline introduces lowest ever price on new routes from London to Boston and Washington – but passengers must travel via Reykjavik Brits will be able to fly from London to the USA for less than £100 next year for the first time – providing they don’t mind a layover in Iceland. Wow Air, the Icelandic low-cost carrier, has begun offering tickets from London Gatwick to Boston Logan International and Baltimore Washington International airports from £99 one-way. The flights, which include a layover in Reykjavik, take about three hours longer than flying direct to Boston and five and a half hours longer on the return journey. For Washington, the outbound and return journeys take about two hours and four hours longer than direct ones respectively. The price, which will only be available on a limited number of seats, includes taxes and charges but only 5kg of hand luggage and no checked bags. Those wanting something to eat or drink during the transatlantic crossing will be charged £1.50 for a coffee and £4.50 for a sandwich, while upgrading from the standard 30 inches of legroom to 35 inches costs £14. The offer comes after Norwegian, another budget Scandinavian airline, began offering direct flights from London to New York, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale for as little as £150. Ryanair and easyJet have both previously considered opening budget transatlantic routes. US airlines and unions fiercely opposed the opening of the Norwegian route, claiming its subsidiary, Norwegian Air International, had based itself in Dublin to avoid Norwegian employment laws and cut costs. Norwegian denied the allegations, claiming the decision was to help it secure future traffic rights within the EU. Wow Air will fly to Boston five times per week from March 27 and Washington four times per week from June 4 next year, and said the announcement marks “just the beginning” of its transatlantic plans. The number of seats available for £99 will depend on demand, the airline said, and will become available to book on Thursday. The flights will use Airbus A320 aircraft on the existing route from Gatwick to Reykjavik, before passengers transfer onto Airbus A321 Extended Range aircraft for the second leg. The cheapest flights to Boston and Washington with British Airways currently cost £520 and £598 respectively for a return journey, but come with substantially more frills. Passengers wanting to carry more than 5kg of hand luggage on the Wow Air will have to pay £22 for an extra 7kg, while one checked bag weighing up to 20kg costs £39. In contrast BA flights include all taxes, fees and charges, complimentary meals and a 23kg checked luggage allowance, while customers can also take two cabin sized bags on board. Skúli Mogensen, CEO of WOW air, said: “Not only are we providing flights to the USA for less than a standard London to Edinburgh train ticket, we’re opening the market to a whole new market of travellers who might previously not have been able to afford transatlantic travel. “The low-cost airline market is scrambling to offer cheap flights to North America and I’m happy that we‘ll be amongst the first to do so and at a price point that will no doubt cause our rivals to re-evaluate their plans.” A spokesman for British Airways said its 285 flights to the US start at £400 return and offer customers more choice of destinations and flexibility. “Our high frequency flight schedule means that if for any reason a flight is delayed or cancelled, customers can be rebooked onto a flight later the same day and arrive at their destination soon after their original arrival time,” she said.