Budget airline Wow Air collapses and cancels all flights, stranding passengers

By Natt Garun

Photo via Flickr / Nicky Boogaard

Icelandic low-cost airline Wow Air today announced that it has ceased operations and all flights have been canceled. In a travel alert, the airline is advising that passengers who have a scheduled flight with the airline seek “rescue fares” from other airlines, or request a refund through their credit card companies or travel insurance, if it was purchased.

Icelandair, a larger airline also based in the country, is now offering reduced fares for those who were affected by the shutdown. According to local news site Iceland Review, an estimated 2,700 to 4,000 passengers have been stranded, and Icelandair is working with those who are stuck in Iceland to bring them home. The airline previously expressed interest in acquiring Wow Air last fall, but scrapped plans after failing to make agreements at their shareholder meetings.

Wow Air’s collapse follows a series of other sudden budget airline shutdowns in recent months. This past October, Denmark-based Primera Air abruptly ceased operations and announced plans to file for bankruptcy after experiencing delays in plane deliveries. Last month, British airline Flybmi also shut down without notice, citing inflated fuel costs and uncertainty over how it would operate in the aftermath of Brexit.

Some have speculated that Norwegian Air may be next after the company released a poor earnings report for 2018, which noted that it operated at a loss of 3.8 billion krona (approximately $438 million USD) and needed to raise $350 million. It also began selling planes to make up for the losses. If Norwegian Air goes down, it would heavily impact passengers worldwide. Last year, it carried a record 37 million passengers; 1.6 million of those were on transatlantic routes which made Norwegian the most popular non-US airline for travels between Europe and the Americas, beating out British Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa, and Air France.