Breaking News: WOW Air Ceases Operations, Strands Thousands of Passengers

Well…that escalated fast! I had planned to write about the “drama” that has been taking place with WOW Air but like a ping-pong match, things were going back and forth and changing by the hour. Before I was able to publish an article, the low-cost carrier collapsed.

WOW Air has been a popular airline for people interested in traveling to Iceland and/or connecting to Europe for cheap.

But it’s no secret that low-cost carriers have been feeling the heat lately:
Primera Air had financial problems and collapsed in October 2018
Norwegian Air has financial problems and has suspended flights
Joon has had financial problems and appears to be merging into their parent company Air France
– And now WOW Air has collapsed after struggling to find a partner to fund continued operations. Despite huge operational losses, WOW Air failed to reach an agreement to restructure with Indigo Group (a private equity firm), and TWICE with Icelandair.

Unfortunately, time has run out for the airline and they announced this morning that all future operations have ceased. This, undoubtedly, is inconvenient for passengers, particularly, passengers that have completed the outgoing flight but not their return.

THROWIN’ SHADE? CAPITALIZING ON OPPORTUNITY? BOTH?

Some airlines are known for their social media “creative marketing.” Sometimes, airlines use their social media to take jabs at other airlines. I’m not sure how to take this but Icelandair has added some new messaging to their website. Take a look at their “WOW Air Stranded Passenger Rescue Page.”

screenshot via icelandair.com

I can’t imagine how stranded passengers feel but I think they will be grateful for this extension.

CANCELLED WOW FLIGHT…WHAT NEXT?

These are the steps that I would take if my flight were cancelled:
1 – File a chargeback with your credit card company. WOW did not deliver what you paid for so there shouldn’t be much debate about getting your money returned.
2 – File an EC 261 claim. A lot of people aren’t aware of this but ‘EC 261’ is a flight compensation regulation in the European Union. You can be compensated handsomely for being denied boarding, flight cancellations, or long flight delays. While you can file the claim yourself and wait for the airline to respond to you (which can be a painful process), you can also use a service like AirHelp and make the process much simpler. Note: AirHelp (and similar services) take a percentage of the money you’re owed. You file a claim with them, they take care of the paperwork, and deal with the airline. I’ve used them before and it’s super simple but you’ll have to determine if the percentage is worth the simplicity and your peace of mind.
3 – Utilize trip delay / trip cancellation insurance. Hopefully, you used a credit card that has trip insurance. This benefit is a lifesaver when situations like this happen. It’s unfortunate but you can rest a little easier knowing that your hotel, food, and other essentials are covered until you can sort it out.

FINAL STAMP

It’s always unfortunate when situations like this take place. I’m not an airline executive so I don’t know all of the details, however, I trust there are a plethora of factors contributing to this terrible equation.

During the summer of 2018, many airlines suffered financially after the Rolls Royce 787 Dreamliner engines presented problems and grounded flights.

I would also imagine the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplanes during this past week have also presented a challenge for smaller airlines that depend on one specific type of plane. In contrast, larger airlines have the ability to absorb those challenges a bit more. But, typically, having strained resources in an already cash-strapped operation, doesn’t end well.

It’s not looking good for low-cost carriers. Without low-cost carriers (e.g. WOW Air) serving as competition to larger airlines, we’d still be seeing astronomic fares across the globe. I remember when $1000 was “normal” for a roundtrip economy ticket from the US to Europe. Yikes!

Have you ever flown WOW Airlines? What was your experience?

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