Icelandic airline Wow ceases operations

Board showing cancelled flights

Iceland-based budget airline Wow announced today that it has entirely ceased operations, leaving many passengers stranded overseas. All of its flights have been cancelled, and the airline has advised holidaymakers who had booked Wow flights to investigate the availability of other airlines.

Wow was reportedly in fairly major debt – with some estimates suggesting that it currently owes around £150 million – and had spent the last few months seeking a backer; ongoing talks with rival airline Icelandair ended without resolution last Sunday. The announcement that Wow would be ceasing operations came after a number of flights were postponed, while the airline attempted to raise equity through a number of investors.

“Some airlines may offer flights at a reduced rate, so-called rescue fares, in light of the circumstances,” said a statement on Wow’s website. “Information on those airlines will be published when it becomes available.” The statement also advises passengers of their rights and suggests who they should contact to obtain refunds or make alternative travel arrangements.

“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,” the statement goes on to say. “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. Passengers who may have bought travel protection, or those passengers whose credit card terms may include such protection, may be entitled to claim compensation and assistance due to delays or travel disruption. However, such compensation is often limited.”

Passengers are also advised that they may be entitled to compensation from Wow Air.

A quick glance at social media suggests that the reaction from the public has not been entirely sympathetic – travellers and their families have been tweeting angrily, demanding that the airline help stranded passengers to get home.

Wow, which was founded by an Icelandic entrepreneur, first flew in 2012, and by 2018 was carrying 3.5 million passengers per year. Its failure is another in a pattern of misfortunes to befall various airlines in recent months – surprising, perhaps, as air travel is more popular than it has ever been. Germania filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, while Flybe and Primea Air also suffered similar fates.