- The Icelandic budget airline Wow Air abruptly ceased operations on Thursday.
- The carrier canceled all flights, stranding hundreds of passengers.
- Wow Air was due to run 15 flights on Thursday alone. Its planes seat about 200 passengers each.
- Passengers have told Business Insider of ruined travel plans and efforts to secure refunds. One said Wow Air emailed her to confirm a flight next week even after the announcement of the shutdown.
- Are you affected by the collapse of Wow Air? Email [email protected].
Hundreds of passengers have been left stranded with little guidance on how to get home or complete their travels after the budget airline Wow Air abruptly collapsed Thursday.
The Icelandic airline said in a terse statement that it had canceled all flights and told passengers to try to book with other carriers.
It did not offer refund tickets but told passengers to check with their credit-card company and European regulators.
Wow Air was due to operate 15 flights on Thursday alone, including three from the US, according to the aviation website Flightradar24. Dozens were meant to fly over the next week.
Travel plans? ‘I guess they don’t exist’
Suher Adi, a nonprofit policy associate living in Washington, DC, told Business Insider her flight from Baltimore to the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik on Wednesday night was delayed twice within five hours before being canceled – leaving multiple other passengers stranded and missing connecting flights. She estimated that 150 to 200 people were supposed to be on the plane.
Adi said she had planned to take a connecting flight from Reykjavik to Paris, also on Wow, to visit a friend.
“Our plane was supposed to fly out of BWI,” Baltimore/Washington International, “at 7 p.m. and then at 7:30 we got a text update, later followed by email, saying it would be delayed until 9 p.m,” she said. “Then at 8:12 I got another text saying it would be delayed until 11 p.m.”
“At 11:36 we got a text saying that they are cancelling our flights due to ‘operational restrictions’ but did not provide any information other than a link to file a claim,” she added.
She said Wow Air texted and emailed passengers on her flight at night to offer free hotel accommodation “until the next Wow Air flight” – which now doesn’t exist. She said she didn’t know how many people took the airline up on that offer, adding that she spent over $US50 on a Lyft ride back home in Washington.
When asked where her travel plans stood, she said: “I guess they don’t exist.”
Passengers due to fly with Wow Air in the coming days have also found their travel plans disrupted.
Natalie Overland, a nanny living in Liverpool, says she had plans trying to visit her husband in Madison, Wisconsin, next week.
She was scheduled to fly on April 3 from Liverpool to Dublin with Ryanair, from Dublin to Boston with Wow Air, and then from Boston to Chicago with American Airlines, she told Business Insider. Her husband was then going to pick her up at Chicago, roughly 2 1/2 hours from Madison by car.
But with the transatlantic leg of the trip canceled indefinitely, her entire trip effectively is as well. She said she was unable to get refunds or credits from other airlines because she had booked “the cheapest fare.”
“I only got married to my husband on January 18 and was excited to see him again,” Overland said. “I really can’t do much – just save more money and get out to see him in the summer.”
Wow Air was still trying to get people to pay hours before folding
It appears that Wow Air gave no prior indication of its collapse and still allowed people to purchase tickets on its site in the hours just before its Thursday-morning announcement.
Rory Boland, the editor of the UK consumer-rights charity Which?, tweeted that as of 7 a.m. local time – about two hours before Wow Air declared its collapse – people could still book and pay for tickets on the carrier’s website.
A family of four travelling over the bank holiday could have paid #wowair over a thousand pounds this morning to book flights the airline knew would never take off (or refund). It went out of business just two hours later. Complete and utter irresponsibility. pic.twitter.com/koDaCXEZNJ
— Rory Boland (@roryboland) March 28, 2019
Daniel Plunkett, an Australian tourist in Ireland, also said Wow Air accepted his $US72 payment for extra bag allowance around 11 p.m. on Wednesday.
He is now stranded in Ireland as his Wow Air flight to Montreal, scheduled for Friday morning, was canceled.
“At around 11 p.m. they would have known then and shouldn’t have taken payment,” Plunkett told Business Insider. “It also would have been nice for them to email text or ring me to let me know my flight was cancelled!”
Another passenger, Thomas Duffy, told the Irish Times that he successfully booked flights for May with Wow Air on Wednesday evening. He has now bought new flights with a different carrier.
Overland, who had to cancel her trip to see her husband, said that even after Wow Air announced its collapse she received a promotional email confirming her April 3 flight and advertising a chance to win an upgraded seat.
She said she received the email at about 10:36 a.m., roughly two hours after the company said it ceased operations.
Wow Air’s struggles
The last Wow Air flight – from Reykjavik to Detroit – was completed Wednesday, Flightradar24 said.
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) March 28, 2019
The carrier owned 11 planes – 10 Airbus A321 planes and one A320 – as of March. Each plane seats about 200 people.
Wow Air had been struggling with debt but continued to offer low prices for its flights.
In January, the company offered one-way flights from the US to Europe for as little as $US49, and it ran a Valentine’s Day promotion offering free flights to anyone named Valentine.
In 2018, the company laid off 111 employees and cut its fleet size by nearly half.
Wow Air’s shutdown follows that of the low-cost Danish carrier Primera Air last October. Passengers and crew members were also stuck in foreign countries after the airline announced its collapse, with some forced to sleep in airports.
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