After months of financial trouble and rumors of a takeover or sale that would allow the Iceland-based airline to continue, WOW Air is finally at the end of its rope. This morning, the airline ceased operation, effective immediately. All flights are canceled. This was after talks fell through regarding a possible takeover by Icelandair or a purchase by Indigo partners.
WOW needed cash, and it needed it quickly. Now that there wasn’t anything left to hope for, it appears the airline’s time is up. Over 1,000 employees lost their jobs today with the collapse of the airline.
Passengers stranded by WOW
The sudden collapse of WOW Air has left passengers stranded with open tickets left to fly. Over 2,000 passengers were set to fly WOW today, either departing North American or departing Iceland and Europe. This comes to a total of 29 flights today involving all of WOW’s 11 aircraft. The swift cessation of operations makes me wonder if they are even going to fly the aircraft back to Iceland anytime soon. Or to their lessors, as one was repossessed in Montreal a couple days ago.
In situations of air carrier collapse, other carriers sometimes offer “rescue fares”, which is one of the options that the Icelandic Transport Authority will use to help passengers get home. Supposedly the IATA has a contingency plan for situations like this, but I have no idea what it is. Passengers may have to shell out a lot of cash to get home in a hurry, though. I don’t envy you if you happen to be one of the unfortunate ones stranded by WOW.
What to do if you’re booked with WOW Air
If you already have summer travel plans booked on WOW Air, you might be wondering what options you have. First, you should start looking for alternate plans, especially if you have other portions of your trip booked already. If you have the miles, check for award flights where you can. It may be a major bummer to have to shell out a lot of miles instead of flying your cheap WOW ticket, but at least you’ll salvage your trip.
If you paid for your ticket using a credit card with trip insurance protections, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, financial insolvency of the travel supplier is a covered reason for trip cancellation.
Looks up the benefit terms if you have another card besides the Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, but those should be similar. You can make a claim through the benefits of your card.
If you aren’t covered by insurance, another alternative is to begin a charge-back with your credit card issuing bank. Because WOW Air sold you a service and now will be unable to fulfill it, you should be covered by your credit card’s protections. Call your bank and initiate a refund.
Finally, EU261 compensation may enter into the equation, although I don’t know how this will work out, considering the airline is insolvent (SEE: Submitting an EU261 claim for a cancelled or delayed flight)
Are more airline failures on the horizon?
While I am one to hope that this answer is no, there are definitely other airlines that are very troubled. We also saw a number go under in 2017 and 2018, including Air Berlin, Monarch Airlines, and Primera Air. Those currently in trouble include Alitalia, South African Airways, and Norwegian. Not to mention Etihad, which posted a $1.28 billion loss for 2018. But Abu Dhabi seems content to keep pouring money into their airline, at least for now.
The airline I am watching closest is Norwegian, another transatlantic budget carrier. They’ve had a string of troubles to deal with, including issues with the 787 aircraft, followed by the grounding of the 737 MAX just a couple weeks ago. Boeing’s newest narrow body was a key part of their plan to offer cheap fares between the U.S. and Europe. They have been on the rocks financially, but more sound than WOW. We’ll see if Norwegian pulls out of their troubles. They did try to bill Boeing for the loss of the MAX.
I sincerely hope you’re not one of those affected by the collapse of WOW Air. Hopefully you will be able to make alternate travel plans and recoup the cost of your ticket.
Featured image courtesy of Milan Nykodym under CC BY 2.0 license.