Another low-cost, long-haul airline pulls the plug

WOW Air no more.
WOW Air no more.
Image: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol
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WOW air, the low-cost, long-haul airline based out of Reykjavik, has ceased operations.

A statement on the airline’s website confirmed the news, advising passengers to consult with other airlines to get to their destination. It also advised customers to take advantage of so-called “rescue fares”—special rates for stranded passengers. Wizz Air, a low-cost airline based out of Budapest, has already said it would offer such fares for former WOW Air customers trying to travel between the Reykjavík and London Stanstead or London Gatwick.

The move came after six months of failed attempts to sell off the airline—including to competitors like Icelandair—and just hours after the airline had suspended flights to Iceland from cities across Europe in search of a cashflow injection to keep operating. The airline had expressed optimism as recently as Tuesday that they would be able to financially restructure the company and continue flying.

WOW Air is the second low-cost, long-haul airline to cease operations in the past six months, after Primera Air also abruptly folded in October after 14 years of business. The Latvia-based airline began as as a short-haul European budget carrier, before jumping onto the budget long-haul trend.

Indeed, the entire low-cost, long-haul business model has seemed vulnerable of late. Norwegian Air, which pioneered the model based on stripped-back amenities and service together with hyper-efficient planes, has been experiencing financial woes of its own recently, and has cut back on its route expansion.

WOW air played a significant role in Iceland’s tourism boom of the last half decade, offering cheap flights from the US and Europe as well as “stopover” flights, which gave travelers a long layover in Reykjavik on a transatlantic trip.

In what will likely come as a surprise to some travelers, airlines have a habit of continuing to accept bookings and operate flights until the very moment they can’t afford to take off. Thus, travelers who have booked WOW air flights will find their only recourse comes from travel insurance, their credit card companies, or protection offered as a part of a holiday package.