It is an inevitable collapse for the initially ambitious but long-troubled Icelandic airline, stranding thousands of passengers.
Long troubled, WOW air has finally accepted its fate and closed down, leaving thousands of passengers stranded on both sides of the Atlantic and dealing a hammer blow to the travel plans of hundreds of thousands more people.
The Icelandic ultra-low-cost airline is believed to owe around €175 million and has been seeking serious investors for almost a year.
All of its remaining aircraft were leased, but is possible that it may have some value in the slots it owns.
The carrier employed around 1,000 people. It carried about 3.5 million passengers last year, on an all-Airbus fleet.
Talks with US investment group Indigo Partners that lasted months and discussions over linking up with rival carrier Icelandair all broke down in recent days.
This morning the airline said it was temporarily grounding flights – just for today but still a grim signal – while it was “in the final stages of finalising equity raise with a group of investors”.
Yet bookings remained open on the WOW website to buy tickets beyond today for future flights.
End of operations
Several hours later, however, the airline announced: “End of Operation of Wow Air. Wow Air has ceased operation. All flights have been cancelled. Passengers are advised to check available flights with other airlines.
“Some airlines may offer flights at a reduced rate, so-called rescue fares, in light of the circumstances. Information on those airlines will be published, when it becomes available. Passengers whose ticket was paid with a credit card are advised to contact their credit card company to check whether a refund of the ticket cost will be issued.
“Passengers who bought their ticket from a European travel agent (within the European Economic Area) as a part of a package tour (a package which includes flights and accommodation or other services) are protected by the Package Travel Directive. Those passengers are advised to contact their travel agent to arrange an alternative flight.
“Passengers who may have bought travel protection, or those passengers whose credit card terms may include such protection, may be entitled to claim compensation and assistance due to delays or travel disruption. However, such compensation is often limited.
“In case of a bankruptcy, claims should be filed to the administrator/liquidator.”
WOW chief Skúli Mogensen told reporters this morning that time simply ran out before the necessary funding could be found.
“I can never forgive myself for not having acted sooner, but it is clear that WOW was an unbelievable airline and we were on the right path to great things,” he said.
“I wish I had more time, because you deserve better, but I am deeply sorry that we have come to this position.”
All seven remaining aircraft are on the ground in US and Canadian airports, from which they did not return after yesterday’s flights. An Airbus A321-200neo is also stranded in Copenhagen where it arrived yesterday evening.