Low Cost Carrier WOW Air Goes Bankrupt Leaving Thousands Stranded

WOW Air, the Icelandic low-cost carrier, is bankrupt. The news follows a failed acquisition by Indigo Partners, in addition to failed talks with full-service rival Icelandair. WOW has been facing financial difficulties for around five months now. In fact, the CEO of the company had to use his own money to prop it up at one point.

The last year has seen a number of high profile airline collapses, mostly driven by rising fuel prices and unfavourable exchange rates. They have been unable to compete in a market where ticket price is everything. At the start of October, we saw the bankruptcy of Primera Air.

Following this, just weeks later saw the demise of Cobalt, with Flybe almost following. The most recent airline bankruptcies were German low-cost airline Germania and UK regional airline FlyBMI. Now, WOW Air joins the list as a bankrupt airline.

WOW Air’s Troubles

The first hint of trouble within WOW Air arrived in mid-October 2018. The airline began to cancel routes with Simple Flying asking the question “Is WOW Air On The Brink Of Major Financial Troubles?”. This was confirmed when Icelandair entered negotiations to purchase WOW Air in early November.

Additionally, at the end of November when the Icelandair deal collapsed, WOW CEO Skúli Mogensen was forced to take action. While he injected €5.5 million of his own money into the airline, this, unfortunately, wasn’t enough to keep the airline in business. At the time he blamed the following on poor financial health:

  • Bad publicity of WOW’s financial state;
  • The collapse of Primera Air;
  • Lessors and creditors imposing stricter terms;
  • Surging oil prices.
WOW Air Bankrupt
Two proposed deals with Icelandair have fallen through. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Two failed acquisitions

There have been two failed acquisitions of WOW Air. The first, by Icelandair, fell through as WOW Air was not able to meet criteria set out prior to a shareholders meeting. However, almost immediately afterwards talks began with airline investment firm Indigo Partners. These talks came to an end last week. While things looked bleak, there was a glimmer of hope as Icelandair showed renewed interest in WOW, however, on Sunday it was confirmed that a deal would not happen.

What if I have flights booked?

Firstly, if you have flights booked with WOW Air, do not to head to the airport. Your flight will not take place as the airline has suspended all operations. WOW Air has told passengers to “check available flights with other airlines.” While also mentioning “Some airlines may offer flights at a reduced rate, so-called rescue fares, in light of the circumstances. Information on those airlines will be published, when it becomes available.”

WOW Air Bankrupt
CEO Skúli Mogensen was previously required to inject his own money into the airline. Photo: WOW Air

Passengers are advised to contact their credit card issuer to see whether they may be able to get a refund on the flight tickets. Additionally, if flights are part of a package tour, they may be protected. Passengers in this circumstance are advised to contact their travel agent or tour operator.

Finally, some travel insurance packages have clauses for airline insolvency. If you have travel insurance booked for your trip, or an annual travel insurance plan, you should check to see whether you are protected in the case of airline bankruptcy. If this is the case, be sure to contact your insurance provider who will detail the next steps.

Have you been affected by the suspension of WOW Air flights? Let us know your story in the comments down below!

17 comments
  1. Before trying to get any refund,the wisest for Wow Air stranded passengers is to get (back) to their destinations,Europe or to the USA and buy a new ticket with another airline.

    1. Okay Robert, but I’d advise you not to judge people who don’t have as much money as you do. But sure, people are stranded a continent away from their destinations, with not enough money for a new ticket, probably unsure of when they’ll be able to get back home, and it’s their fault. I don’t feel bad for them either!

      1. It’s their fault ?
        You attack Robert and go much further than him in your comment.
        Some people don’t have any clue about the cost of a flight. They are used to fly with Easyjet and Ryanair which have been operating for a while now, which continue to increase their market shares and so on. If someone bought a ticket 8 months ago to benefit from the cheap early prices, they might not know that WOW was struggling to have liquidity to operate… So please, don’t be arrogant towards those people.

  2. Got stuck by the WOW Airline Bankruptcy and it was my flight home from a dream vacation. Now I have three tickets to a place I can’t get home from and trip cancellation insurance is a nightmare. Replacement tickets are almost triple the original price. I feel for those people who are stuck far from home, guess I’m lucky it happened before I left.

    1. I purchased a ticket from Wow air in June guess I cancell my trip, usually fly Icelandair but they don’t fly from Detroit I can probably get my fare back through my credit card, but the hotel I booked in Reykjavik refuses to refund , saying it was a prepaid booking rate, that is a bunch of BS , even though their website says no fee cancellation if done in plenty of time. My bus trips through Reykjavik excursion was cancelled and refunded with no problem. So I highly recommend them.

      1. On second thought, I booked my hotel through Expedia with additional insurance well think twice about using them , no help whatsoever

  3. I bought 4 tickets to go to Paris from Toronto at May 3rd(2019/05/03)
    Anybody give me some information to get a refund from them?

    1. Same case for me. I bought 4 tickets to go to Stockolm from Montreal at Aug 13th (2019/08/13) returning on Sep 2nd (2019/09/02)
      Anybody can give me some information to get a refund from them?
      Is there in place any provincial claim or where can we go ask?

  4. WOW air’s financial troubles were well known and the writing was on the wall. Those stranded should have paid better attention or coughed up a few more dollars to fly on a more solid carrier. Icelandair flies out of Cleveland Stella which is only a 2 hour drive from Detroit. I have flown WOW on 4 separate occasions and have a mostly positive opinion of them….sad to see them go…

  5. Just feel what the company is going through. They went bankrupt. The CEO lost his $5.5M+. People lost jobs. He lost his company. It’s how Bitconnect and other companies were. They just shut down and people are trying to sue. It’s probably part of the TOS.

  6. We have a similar story, we booked hotels with Expedia and Booking.com for the end of May al around Iceland for the road trip. We found yesterday morning that all the hotel (exept Hestasportst Cottages, thank you for being supportive in our difficult situation) took the money and refuse a refund because we did up greats on the hotels so no cancelation policy applies. Our Visa gives us a hard time as well. Nightmare instates of a dream vacation.

  7. Also was “stuck” in New York City. Obtained return flights to Belgium at the Icelandair price for “stranded” Wow passengeers, ticket announced at 160 USD + Fee and taxes still amounted to 426,05 USD (more than the round trip WOW ticket I had purchased in Nov. 2018.
    My Mastercard does not intervene, neither my cancellation Insurance that does not provide for bankruptcy …
    Also had already bougth with WOW (Febr. 2019) a one-way flight to Boston for coming July 1 !
    Very slight hope for a (partly) recovery of losses incurred is to introduce a claim with the Liquidator of the Wow Bankruptcy info at e-mail : [email protected]
    And good luck to all of us , “stranded WOW passengers

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