The bargain airline tickets offered by Icelandic carrier WOW seem like they may have been too good to be true. The airline abruptly shut down without warning on Thursday stranding thousands of passengers at airports around the world.
WOW put out a travel alert saying simply WOW air has ceased operation. “All WOW flights have been cancelled” and that passengers are “advised to check available flights with other airlines.” According to the BBC, WOW had been selling tickets until 7am Thursday morning.
WOW made a name for itself over the last seven years as a budget carrier utilizing itineraries from the US to Europe with stopovers in Iceland. Tickets from San Francisco to Stockholm had been as cheap as $70 and according to Reuters WOW accounted for 30 percent of the all the tourists who visited Iceland last year.
At this point WOW itself has not offered refunds to all impacted travelers. Instead it instructed fliers to contact either credit card companies or travel agents. The statement reads:
“Passengers whose ticket was paid with a credit card are advised to contact their credit card company to check whether a refund of the ticket cost will be issued.
Passengers who bought their ticket from a European travel agent (within the European Economic Area) as a part of a package tour (a package which includes flights and accommodation or other services) are protected by the Package Travel Directive. Those passengers are advised to contact their travel agent to arrange an alternative flight.”
Additionally, Europe offers robust travel protections the United States does not, so those may come into play as well when it comes to compensating stranded passengers.
How WOW ended up here is not entirely clear at this point, but according to the Danish site check-in.dk, the airline went bankrupt after failing to secure additional funding over the last several months.
In the immediate aftermath other carriers in the region like Norwegian Air and Icelandair are offering discount flights to help get people where they need to go.
This story will be updated as there is more information.
According to WOW CEO Skuli Mogensen WOW's creditors ultimately spelled the end for the airline. He spoke to Icelandic broadcaster RUV and CNN picked up the transcript.
MOREGENSEN: "We have been working with all our aircraft leasing companies for a while, but in the end it didn’t work out. As is normal, people believed we would get the investment. We have been very transparent but it didn’t happen...One thing leads to another when one chip starts to fall then it falls quickly - it wasn’t any one thing that caused it. The creditors were getting impatient to see us finish the investment."