The Fishy Thing About WOW Air’s Revised Relaunch Plan

Like every great soap opera, the story of WOW is littered with twists and turns. In the latest installment of our real-life aviation drama, barmy businesswoman Ballarin dreams of launching an aircraft full of nothing but dead fish, but still seems to have forgotten to book her landing slots.

Could fish secure WOW’s revival? Photo: Airbus

The latest installment of the WOW 2 saga

Just when you thought you’d get a break from the saga of WOW 2, aviation’s strangest story has developed another twist. Contrary to our previous reporting, the launch of the revived WOW Air will no longer be postponed until December. In fact, we could see WOW 2 take to the skies a whole lot sooner than that.

Like a phoenix from the flames, the purple planes are set to make a comeback, possibly as soon as a couple of weeks from now. But there’s a catch. If you want to fly on this new incarnation of Iceland’s low-cost transatlantic troublemaker, you’ll need some fins. Oh, and you’ll probably need to be dead too.

WOW will be a cargo airline

The outlandish and, dare we say, slightly bonkers Michele Ballarin has returned to Iceland and hosted yet another of her dubious press conferences. Announcements made at such previous events included that WOW would build its own airport lounges (for all its passengers), that WOW would fly by October (it’s now nearly November) and that ground ops were all set up at Washington Dulles (the airport knew of no such thing).

Now, I’m not saying that I don’t believe what Ballarin has to say this time, only that I plan to take it all with a pinch (or bucketload) of salt. And to be fair to US Aerospace, what’s being proposed this time does sound slightly more feasible than anything they’ve come up with in the past.

WOW Air A330neo
Ballarin has a new plan. Photo: Airbus

According to reporting by RUV, the press conference saw Ballarin’s spokesperson, Gunnar Steinn Pálsson, confirming that things have taken a bit longer than expected. Despite this, he said that WOW is still on track to launch in a matter of weeks, not months. However, the launch will be rather different than expected.

While the route is unchanged (the airline still plans to fly from Keflavik to Washington), now it will carry no passengers at all. Instead, the two aircraft that will be in service at the launch will focus on transporting freight rather than people. In particularly, Gunnar says, WOW will be focused on the movement of fish.

Will this actually happen?

In theory, this plan actually has a fair bit going for it. Since the demise of WOW, Icelandair basically has a monopoly on cargo movements from Iceland. Inevitably, prices have gone up since they lost their competition, so having another choice will serve to make freight services more fairly priced. Ballarin has always made it clear that she has a strong background in cargo, so this new iteration of WOW 2 seems to be playing to her strengths.

Icelandair’s monopoly on Icelandic cargo has made the market expensive. Photo: Boeing

However, if we assume that the two aircraft she’s leased were originally intended as passenger jets, only the cargo hold will be available for loading. With half the capacity running empty, this wouldn’t be a particularly efficient way to operate a new business. You could stack boxes of fish in the passenger seats, I suppose, but can you imagine how long it would take to get rid of the smell?

And that’s before we even get into the lack of ground ops, landing slots and all the other gubbins required to make an airline work.

We may yet be proved wrong and see WOW fly again. But for now, in terms of whether this will really happen, the jury is most decidedly out.