Struggling WOW Air Moves Flights To London Stansted

For the past couple of months, Simple Flying has been watching developments out of WOW Air. Following the failed purchase by Icelandair and a number of route cancellations, WOW is now changing one of its routes, potentially in a cost-saving exercise. Simple Flying has learned that WOW Air intends to move flights to London from Keflavik to Stansted Airport. Currently, the route flies into Gatwick Airport. Stansted is no stranger to WOW, as they have previously operated from the airport.

WOW Stansted
WOW Air are set to move all of their services to Stansted Airport from March 31st. Photo: Stansted Airport

Troubled 2018

2018 could be reviewed as a slightly troubled year for the low-cost Icelandic carrier. Back in mid-October, WOW cancelled three routes to the US, leading to thoughts that they could be on the brink of major financial trouble. Fast forward to the start of November, and the Icelandair Group agreed to purchase WOW pending certain criteria and shareholder approval.

In late November we learnt that this was no longer going ahead, causing the airline to return 4 aircraft. Then in mid-December, WOW Air received a $75million investment. As such, the airline is now focusing on short-haul routes following an unsuccessful launch of its Delhi route.

WOW Stansted
Last Summer WOW Air started operating flights from Stansted. Photo: Stansted Airport

Is Stansted The New Gatwick?

Operating from Stansted could be a real cost saver for WOW Air. As a secondary airport for London, costs to operate at the field are lower than at Gatwick. One only needs to look at the number of Ryanair flights operating from the airfield to see how popular it is for low-cost carriers. In fact, Stansted Airport makes up Ryanair’s main operating base.

WOW Stansted
Stansted Airport is one of London’s secondary airports and home of low-cost carrier Ryanair. Photo: Stansted Airport

While the cost of operating from Stansted could be cheaper, there are a number of other ways it could save the airline money. Firstly, by operating from only one airport in London, WOW only needs to pay for representatives at one airport. Secondly, slots to land at Gatwick can be sold for a good price. While not quite as in demand as at Heathrow, being London’s second busiest airport means that Gatwick is often at capacity. As such, Gatwick Airport is looking to move its backup runway to use both simultaneously.

What Does This Mean For Passengers?

While the changes don’t come into force until the 31st of March, tickets beyond this date have already been sold. As such, WOW has said that all affected customers will be contacted and offered a refund if Stansted is not suitable. The transfer time from Gatwick to London takes 32 minutes as opposed to 46 minutes from Stansted, so the travel times are negligible. The issue arises if you have a transferring flight booked at Gatwick. While Gatwick publishes the minimum connection time as 60 minutes in the same terminal or 90 for different terminals, transferring Airports takes much longer. While a refund may seem fair, passengers may need to pay a lot more to rebook onto a more suitable flight with another airline.

WOW Stansted
WOW will contact passengers affected by the change. Photo: Stansted Airport

What Does Stansted Think?

Stansted Airport reacted to the change with a positive message. In a statement to the press, Mats Sigurdson, London Stansted Aviation Director, said: “We’re delighted that WOW air has chosen to base its London operation at London Stansted Airport. We saw really high demand over the summer from passengers choosing WOW’s flights to Reykjavik and beyond to destinations across the United States, and inbound tourism to London and the East of England. We look forward to welcoming more WOW air passengers to London Stansted Airport early next year.” Simple Flying has contacted WOW Air for comment.

Will you be affected by the upcoming change? Let us know what you think in the comments down below!

5 comments
  1. Any reason why it’s impossible to get a direct flight from anywhere in the US to Stansted. As someone that flies frequently to the UK it would certainly be a blessing to gain a flight to STN rather than experience a three hour coach ride to get there after a nine hour transatlantic flight.

    1. I know Primera Air was operating direct flights before their unfortunate collapse. Unfortunately, it is not that popular with long-haul carriers at the moment. I feel that part of the problem could be that Heathrow is known the world over, and Gatwick to some extent, however, as Stansted is less well known by potential travellers from overseas, it is overlooked. Emirates have started a service to Stansted from Dubai, and Stansted Airport is actively looking to gain more long-haul flights. With the crowded aviation market in London, I’d say its certainly a possibility in the future with the right carrier.

  2. I believe that rail transportation times between Central London and Stansted have to be improved before the airport becomes a viable international hub. Currently, the Paddington Station to Heathrow Airport trip takes just 15 minutes and the Victoria Station to Gatwick Airport is scheduled to take just 30 minutes. However, the fastest trains from Liverpool Street Station to Stansted is 53 minutes. Service from London to all three airports operates every 15 minutes. Having the longer ground travel time makes Stansted an unattractive choice for many business travelers.

  3. 16:11 GMT today 4-Jan: got this email from Wow… are things starting to disintegrate faster than expected there??

    Dear WOW air guest on flight WWWW814 KEF-LGW 21JAN19. We are truly sorry to inform you that due to unforeseen circumstances we regretfully have to cancel your flight and all flights connected to this flight. Please note that all passengers within the booking are also affected…

  4. The most inconvenient airport to get to when you live around London… what a shame.

    Train is expensive and takes forever to arrive at the destination.

    Driving is expensive if you count the distance + toll (if you cross via Dartford) + parking (even to drop-off a passenger is expensive, good grief!!)

    Will be better off flying with a non-budget airline from Heathrow or Gatwick next time…

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