Perhaps as famous for their $99 (and occasionally $69) flight sales as they are for their vibrant purple livery, WOW Air just ceased service and left passengers stranded around the world.
WOW Air’s demise is the latest reminder that while ultra low-cost carriers can launch with much fanfare, they can also fail just as spectacularly. And now agents will be fielding calls from desperate travellers stranded by an airline that had financial turbulence for months and didn’t pay commission.
After failed attempts to secure funding from investors, a buy-out deal from one-time rival Icelandair that fell through, and numerous cancelled flights in the past few days, WOW Air has announced it has ceased operations, in a statement on its website WOW Air advises stranded passengers “to check available flights with other airlines”, for so-called rescue fares. Fares paid by credit card may qualify for chargeback refunds stranding passengers on either side of the Atlantic.
WOW’s Canadian operations included flights out of Toronto and Montreal to numerous destinations in Europe via Reykjavik. In 2017 it added flights to Tel Aviv from both Toronto and Montreal, and in 2018 it announced India flights via Reykjavik as well. And in October 2018 WOW announced it was planning to launch flights out of Vancouver in summer 2019.
The ultra low-cost carrier launched in 2012 and ramped up at a furious pace, expanding quickly – too quickly, as it turns out. High fuel costs didn’t help.
At its peak, with more than three dozen destinations, WOW Air was reporting up to 60% annual growth in passenger numbers. Its revenue per passenger, however, didn’t keep up and dropped by about 20% in 2017.
According to reports from The Associated Press, WOW Air has grounded at least six planes in North America that were set to leave late Wednesday from Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Detroit, New York and Baltimore.
In Europe, Reykjavik-bound planes from seven cities – Amsterdam, Dublin, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt and Copenhagen – did not take off this morning.
The Canadian travel industry has seen quite a few Low cost carriers and ultra low costs carries come and go, from blink-and-you’ll-miss-them Roots Air and Greyhound Air (infamous for its anti-agent advertising campaign), to Jetsgo, to major carriers like Canada 3000.
In recent years the Canadian market has seen a new wave of ULCCs and LCCs take on the transatlantic market.
WOW Air’s failure comes less than six months after the demise of Primera Air which offered London (Stansted) and Paris out of Toronto and was weeks away from offering Paris out of Montreal.
Here’s what you need to know about rebooking, refunds, and more.
Check with your credit card company.
If you have paid by credit card and have been charged by the airline contact your credit card company and request a chargeback (refund) as well as request a claim form from TICO.
Booked as a package? Call your travel agent
If you purchased a Wow Air travel services from an Ontario travel agency or website and will not receive travel services due to the cessation of the airline, you may file a claim from the Ontario Travel Industry Compensation Fund for reimbursement. You may download a claim form against the Travel Compensation Fund – click here or consumers may also contact TICO directly at 1-888-451-8426 or (905) 624-6241 or email email@example.com to request a claim form.Please note that there is a legislated 6 month claim filing deadline. The filing deadline is September 30, 2019.
Consumers with future departures or who are currently in transit are advised to contact their travel agent for information or assistance with alternate travel arrangements.