Icelandic airline WOW shuts down its operations mid-flight, strands passengers

WOW Air abruptly grounds all planes and operations -- a catastrophe that has left nearly 2.7k travelers stranded.


March 29, 2019

On Wednesday, nearly 3k passengers were stranded after WOW Air, a low-cost Icelandic airline, hastily ceased operations, grounding all 27 of its airplanes. Nearly 1k people also lost their jobs.

It gets worse: WOW continued to tell passengers the wait was simply a “delayed flight”, until around midnight when gate agents and flight crew boarded the plane and left without them.

Sh*t really hit the thruster when, in classic airline fashion, travelers were finally notified via travel alert on the company’s website hours later.

No frills, huh?

Founded in 2011, WOW Air was part of the affordable airline boom among European carriers. It offered cheap trans-Atlantic fares on routes via Iceland — no frills.

At the time, its model drove down ticket prices as it bucked the notorious nickel-and-diming trend of hidden fees and other overpriced options — a standard among many carriers.

But unfortunately, after massive growth, and even bigger losses (it blew through $45m USD from July 2017 to June 2018 alone), WOW served up the biggest frill of all.

Not the kind of WOWing travelers had in mind

WOW’s chairman, Skuli Mogensen, said he burned jet fuel until the last second to secure funding and save his company — but unfortunately, it was the passengers who were left without a parachute.

WOW customers who were mid-flight and those flying late Wednesday and early Thursday hit the most turbulence: Many had to sink money into hotel costs and find another way home.

According to CNN, Mogensen seemed sympathetic. But when asked what WOW Air could do to accommodate passengers, he simply said, “It’s now, unfortunately, out of our hands.”

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