WOW Air was only founded in 2011, to provide a low-cost airline model service to Iceland. It has plenty of competition to its target markets, with Icelandair operating in the layer above and airlines like easyJet fast realising that Iceland is a prime target market.
Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. Pretty much everything is imported, with the exception of fish, geothermal energy, and the countries stunning natural beauty. It also tends to have a relatively well off population, with a strong desire to travel. Icelandic winter tends to be a long, cold, and dark affair, with the Arctic Circle just clipping the northernmost coasts of the mainland.
Reykjavik, (pronounced Rec-yar-vik), the country’s only city and capital, sits in an interesting position in the worlds aviation geography, much as Dubai does in the Middle East. It happens to be pretty much half way between the US East Coast and Europe, putting it in range of both, and more importantly the A321’s the airline started with.
Flying passengers in from London, Paris, Stockholm, Rome, Edinburgh, Milan and many more, transferring them onto another flight direct to Boston, Montréal, New York and Toronto at well below the cost of the direct flights from the main trans-Atlantic carriers, was an instant success. It must have irritated Icelandair who were doing the exact same thing.
The success of WOW using the A321 inevitably led to it deciding it needed to carry more passengers in larger aircraft, to destinations further afield. In June 2016 they introduced the A333 into the mix and extended their route offering to Los Angeles and San Francisco places Icelandair doesn’t service. Indeed by capacity, WOW now operates the largest aircraft in Iceland with these A333’s. If Norwegian hadn’t already proven the viability of trans-Atlantic low-cost, WOW most certainly has. The age of trans-Atlantic low-cost long-haul is well and truly here. If I was easyJet and RyanAir, I’d be thinking we might have missed a trick.
The extraordinary thing with WOW is they managed to pull this off with just 11 aircraft; 6 A321’s, (all under 2 years old), 2 A320’s, and 3 A330’s.
This aircraft, TF-GAY (they use TF-MOM, DAD, SIS, BRO, GMA, GPA & KID on the A321’s), was previously registered as 9V-STG and delivered to Singapore Airlines on 10 March 2010. They only used her for 5 years, deciding to cut capacity on their medium haul routes, partly through competition and partly to leave more room for Scoot to grow. Sold to ICBC leasing as 2-CRRT then re-registered again as PH-IBC, she was leased to WOW as TF-GAY on 7th June 2016, fitted with 342 economy-only seats. The other two A333’s are also ex-Singapore Airlines, now Spanish registered as EC-MIN and EC-MIO and are sub-leased from Air Europa who are moving over to Dreamliners.
Phoenix have resolved the issues their A330 mould – especially the wings, suffered last year. From a mould and build perspective this is really very good. The near luminous fuchsia pink covers the entire fuselage and there is absolutely no way you’ll miss this in real life, on a diorama, or even a vast collection!
The detail, aerials and windows, the neatly painted moulded-in dome, are all first class.
However it has one far to obvious defect, and something that Phoenix and others seem to have so much trouble with. You’d think after all these years they would have worked it out by now. The white paint that they’ve used to print the huge WOW lettering on is simply too thin. It’s so flat, and so morbidly lifeless it looks half-hearted, simply underwhelming in its mediocrity, appearing to have an almost foggy pale grey tone about it. It looks pretty poor in low light, because that allows the pink beneath to really show up.
Now I suspect the thickness of the white may possibly vary from model to model. It depends how the paint replenishment/distribution and roller works as it goes from unit to unit. I’d bet some are way too thick, some are blurred and some are way too thin. Somewhere it might be right!
If you stand a distance away, you won’t really notice, put it under high-intensity daylight bulb and the white is still sufficiently reflective that photographs tend to favour it rather strongly, and far more than it deserves.
2.Wings and landing gear
Mould wise the wings have been resolved, and I’m grateful for that, too long was there a problem, but its fixed, at least for now!
However this set of wings is unusual in that the hydraulic actuator ‘pods’ for the extendable trailing edge flaps are painted pink. However it’s not been done very well, lacking accuracy, especially the starboard wing, where the outermost and innermost lack paint along the sides.
The landing gear is generally good quality, but this lumpy tyre thing is getting really annoying. Come on Phoenix you need to try harder with this! Unsightly and unnecessary.
While it’s more usual for Phoenix to choose a toy-like silver, and coat it onto the landing gear as though it were chrome sauce on a 99 ice cream cone, that is so bright even nuclear test grade dark glasses have to be worn to take photos with a flash, this set is surprisingly subtle.
Having been blinded by the silver on the Phoenix KLM gear (other than the nose gear which was covered in a toffee coloured glue), this was a welcome change. Maybe we could actually have consistentcy and quality as a universal trend? Stop laughing. I mean it! Well someone has to wish for things to improve don’t they?
The hyper-glossy wings seriously reduce the visible detail on the mould surfaces. The wing tip sharklets are well done though, with the WOW logo on both inner and outer surfaces.
Rolls Royce units, these of course have the rear fan. The silver intake rims don’t look too bad from an eyeball perspective, better than many. They don’t look so good up close, but they’re passable from a distance. The fail is more on No.1 which has silver inside the engine rim (where the fans are coloured an acceptable titanium).
The rear rims are not so good. The No.2 has a huge chip out of the paint on the inner left side. While the rear fans are painted an acceptable colour, the inner engine nacelle wall is pink and looks a bit silly. As we’ve seen from photos from Farnborough, this doesn’t happen in real life.
There is also a graphic on the engine nacelles “Going to Iceland?” It’s not printed strongly enough, looking weak and faint.
A lot of the usual sensor detail and cargo door details are very hard to see against the pink, but photos reveal it to be present and correct. The flight deck windows are excellent and the radome is visible too.
Superbly assembled and accurate.
Well, this took some dithering over. Dozens of photos later a quick chat with WOW’s corporate press people to wangle the colour code out of them and….this is closer to being right than the A321 which is not that close, though you could be forgiven for thinking it is. So I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt.
I’ve seen the Aeroclassics version and it’s not even vaguely close to being correct. JC Wings are supposed to be doing a version on that horrible new mould, but I’ve cancelled all of my JCW orders now after waiting 6 months plus for 5 models. So from my perspective, Phoenix have done a reasonably good job and I’m not complaining.
However the difference between it and the A321 – ehmm….
7.Score and conclusions
- – 8 for the less than 100% white paint of the WOW lettering. It just isn’t strong enough, showing too much pink through
- -2 for the big chip of paint on the rear of No.2 engine
- -2 for the incomplete pink paint under the wings
- 88% is a reasonably good score. I expected, with this being almost one colour and white, that it would be better to be honest, but little bits of detail and quality fails as so often with Phoenix, let the side down. Good, but could be much better.
The positive thing about this aircraft is that WOW, as an airline isn’t afraid to embrace LGBTQIA concerns, even if it is just through an aircraft registration. I admire that. Bit by bit, is how you change the world permanently, revolutions tend to be transitory in the long run, but incremental change can have long-lasting and meaningful benefits for everyone.
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