This Popular Airline Just Shut Down Without Notice: Here’s What It Means for You

Wow, is this ever bad news: The airline carrier known as WOW Air just shut down. Here's what customers can do to get home—or get their money back.

White jet airplane on the runway on a sunny day on blue sky backgroundMikhail Starodubov/Shutterstock

You know how annoying it is when your flight gets delayed by a few hours? Well, last week, people who showed up to airports for trips on WOW Air were informed that their flights were being delayed forever. On March 28, Wow Air, the Icelandic budget airline, announced that it had shut down. A “travel alert” on its website informed customers, “WOW AIR has ceased operation. All WOW AIR flights have been canceled.”

What happened? In short: they ran out of money. The New York Times reports that the airline, which flew 3.5 million passengers in 2018, had been desperately trying to get its finances in order, reducing its 20-aircraft fleet to 11 by selling and returning leased planes, as well as by seeking additional funding. As reported by USA Today, the company’s efforts to battle their cash crunch completely collapsed when an acquisition by Icelandair fell through.

Vytautas Kielaitis/Shutterstock

Over 1,000 people were left stranded on the morning of the announcement. If you have a WOW Air ticket for an upcoming flight what should you do? Henrik Zillmer, CEO of AirHelp, offered these five tips to help you get home, or get your money back:

  1. Ticket-holders should check available flights with other airlines, as some may offer discounted economy tickets at so-called “rescue fares” in light of the circumstances. For example, WOW’s main competitor Icelandair is providing rescue fares specifically for passengers who have already embarked on their journey, and who have a return ticket with WOW Air between March 28 and April 11, 2019.
  2. Passengers may be able to claim a refund for their flight if it was booked via a travel agency or partner airline. Travel agencies or partner airlines may be responsible, depending on whether flights are covered by travel insurance. If a trip was booked as a package, coverage should be guaranteed. Check to see about these other times an airline could owe you money, too.
  3. If passengers booked directly with WOW Air and used a credit card as payment, they can contradict or cancel the payment before it is processed. There is also the possibility of the airline repaying debited amounts in the event of a bankruptcy filing. If that were to happen, passengers would be required to send documents to their credit card companies certifying the airline’s unsuccessful claim.
  4. Passengers who suffered from previous disruptions on WOW Air and were eligible for compensation are unlikely to have their claims paid out since the claims are ranked low in the bankruptcy estate and usually only high ranked liabilities, if any, are paid out.
  5. Passengers should not count on assistance or refunds from WOW Air since claims are usually the last items to be paid out in bankruptcy estates. If flights were booked through a travel agency or on a credit card, travelers’ best course of action would be to try to get refunds from the agency or cancel the credit card payment.

Learn more about how to take the stress out of airline travel.

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Joe McKinley
Joe McKinley is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest, covering cars, careers, tech and more.