On Thursday, March 28th, Wow Air, the Icelandic budget airline canceled all flights, stranding over 1000 passengers.
Wow Air joins a growing list of low-cost airlines that have ceased operations citing financial hardship among rising fuels costs and over-supply. In recent years, Europe has aso lost Air Berlin, Primera, and Monarch to similar claims.
Founded in 2011, Wow Air became known for offering low-cost transatlantic fares to Europe via stopovers in Iceland. As Wow Air heavily undercut other airlines with it’s $99 fares, airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic reacted competitively with cheaper tickets for those willing to go without amenities like checked bags and preselected seats.
After months of financial losses, Wow Air has ceased all operations, subsequently stranding more than 1,000 passengers on both sides of the Atlantic. The Icelandic budget carrier—known for its low-cost, basic services, $99 transatlantic flights—began canceling flights earlier this week and officially issued a statement Thursday morning informing its passengers to check if other airlines would issue “rescue fares” to fly them to their destinations. As recently as this January, Wow Air advertised its “lowest airfare ever,” with $49 flights from the United States to Europe.
While only a few ago, “Wow Air launched $199 one-way fares between the United States and India. But these low fares weren’t enough to save the airline, which suffered from poor customer reviews, rising fuel costs, and a recent dip in tourism to Iceland”, according to CNBC.
How can I get a refund for my flight purchase?
Passengers currently stranded since Wow Air ceased operations will be responsible for paying for their own return fares. However, Icelandair, Wizz Air, EasyJet, Norwegian, and XL Airways are all offering reduced “rescue fares” to help stranded passengers return home, according to the Icelandic Transport Authority.
Wow Air recommends contacting your travel agent to see if the ticket costs are covered by a travel insurance policy. However, keep in mind that most travel insurance policies bought in Canada don’t cover airline insolvency.
For future travel, Wow Air flights paid for via credit card, AirHelp, an air passenger rights company, recommends contacting your credit card company directly to see if it will issue a refund of the ticket cost for services left unrendered. But if you used a debit card to book your flight, it’s unlikely that you’ll get your money back.
What does this mean for the future cheap travel to Europe?
Now that Wow Air has shown that it’s business model isn’t sustainable, expect airfares to go back up. While those $99 fares to Iceland are likely a thing of the past, it doesn’t mean airfares to Europe will skyrocket now that Wow Air is done. In fact, according to a recent report from Hopper, flights to Europe are the cheapest they’ve been in three years due to such factors as Brexit and newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft.