We love showing you the lowest possible airfare, but is the lowest fare always the best value?

We were searching the LAX to Dublin route recently, and noticed that Ethiopian, which flies the route nonstop, was offering a $578 round-trip airfare. Now, Ethiopian not only allows you to carry on a bag for free, but also allows two free checked bags on this fare.
Meanwhile, WOW Air, which has really shaken up international air travel from the US recently with rock-bottom airfares, was charging $930 round-trip on the same dates with connections in Iceland (some of which are 16 hour layovers on the lowest fares, which admittedly could be a plus for some people wanting to see Iceland for a few hours, but for others means adding a hotel room to the price of the airfare).
Not a fair comparison, necessarily, because perhaps if you’re flexible with travel dates WOW has a lower fare, and indeed they do: a $380 round-trip connecting flight is the lowest we could find, seemingly a great deal.
But: WOW Air only allows a small “under seat” carry on bag at that price; a typical 21- or 22-inch rollaboard will cost an additional $100 round-trip. And checked bags cost even more. Add a checked bag and seat selection and that $380 fare is now $695 round-trip. You’ll also have to buy meals and booze or even a Coke on WOW; Ethiopian wines and dines you for free.
All of which is to say, we love what WOW has done for low airfares, but when we sometimes email, tweet, or list a seemingly higher fare on a route than you might find elsewhere, there’s a reason for that. We don’t just look at low prices, we also look for “value.”   

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