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"WOW Launches $99 Fares to Europe From California” (tech guy starts airline)

The WOW Air CEO sold his tech company in the early 2000s, retired, and then ran triathlons and climbed mountains — all the kinds of things men who retire early tend to do when they don’t have to go into an office every day. But Mogensen got bored and decided to launch an airline.

WOW Launches $99 Fares to Europe From California

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I hope he didn't price so low that he goes out of business. 

Travelers have the option to continue their trip to WOW’s 21 European destinations, including London, Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt, Dublin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Stockholm, starting at $199 one way including taxes, with a one-hour stopover in Iceland. 

It’s a different kind of airline to be sure.

The planes are muppet purple, and Mogensen has his email right on the front page of the WOW website.

Mogensen is charismatic in a way that reminds you of another high-profile budget airline CEO, but when you make the comparison he just smiles. We caught up with the Icelander on the evening before his big California launch to talk about cheap fares, paying for food on planes, and why anyone would want to be an airline CEO in the first place.

Yahoo Travel: How is it possible to keep intercontinental fares this cheap?

Skúli Mogensen: We apply the low-cost model that had been successful domestically to international flights. The secret is that we really started low-cost from day one. We keep a low overhead. We have no regional offices, no traditional ad campaigns. We sell directly to the customers, cutting out the middle men. We only use new and efficient aircrafts, and when you put all of it together, it allows us to keep the costs down.

We are a private airline. We don’t have outside investors, and for me it is more about having fun, not the profit. As soon as you become public, they expect you to optimize profit. 

But the flight from California to Iceland is about nine hours. How comfortable can that be on a budget carrier?

We are using brand-new wide-body Airbus A330s with a 340 seat configuration. A hundred seats have a 34-inch pitch, which is far greater than the average low-cost airline, and we sell those seats for a reasonable fee. Even the regular seats are not as jammed as on a Ryan or Spirit.

Since it is a low-cost carrier, do customers have to pay for all the extras?

We do have the traditional low-cost model. You pay for what you use. If you travel with additional luggage, you pay additional fees. We are seeing all the airlines do that now anyway. Approximately 20 percent of our fee structure comes from additional fees.

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