Wow Air abruptly shuts down, stranding passengers

March 28 at 11:48 AM

The Icelandic budget airline Wow Air abruptly ceased operations Thursday, canceling all flights and stranding passengers around the world.

In an early morning travel alert, Wow Air urged ticket holders to look elsewhere to complete their trips, noting that other airlines may offer “so-called rescue fares, in light of the circumstances.”

Wow Air did not include any details about other flight options, only that « Information on those airlines will be published, when it becomes available.”

In a section of the alert with the heading “What are my rights?” the airline outlined how some passengers may be entitled to compensation for their canceled flights. Those who purchased travel insurance or who bought their tickets with a credit card that offers travel protection may be able to recoup some costs, Wow Air said, but noted that “such compensation is often limited.”

The carrier said it may be obligated to compensate passengers in accordance with European regulations. “In case of a bankruptcy, claims should be filed to the administrator / liquidator,” the company said.

On Twitter, stranded passengers expressed their frustration and tagged the airline and other carriers in an apparent effort to get home.

The airline’s customer support account on Twitter was hit with request after request for help. A litany of apologies in public messages Thursday instructed individual customers to send their booking information through private, direct messages for assistance. Customers complained about canceled flights, demanded refunds and asked for new bookings to continue their journeys.

As of Thursday, the carrier was offering sub-$200 fares from Baltimore, Detroit, New York and Boston.

Last year, Icelandair reached an agreement to buy Wow Air. Both airlines had been struggling in the face of higher oil prices, slowed tourism to Iceland, and competition from rivals that offered direct flights to Europe. But the deal evaporated.

A private equity firm also recently discussed investing in Wow Air, but last week the carrier announced the suitor had backed out of the talks. In a last-ditch effort, just one week ago, the company said it had rekindled conversations with Icelandair for a potential takeover, the Financial Times reported.

Based in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik, Wow Air was founded in 2011, employing about 1,000 people, according to the company’s website. The airline flew 3.5 million passengers last year, serving airports in Europe, the U.S., Canada and Israel.

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