Iceland’s low-cost airline, WOW Air, has ceased operations, leaving passengers stranded and confused.
Alice Manos has been looking forward to her Paris vacation for months.
The 23-year-old Washington, D.C., woman, who was raised in France, bought a $425 round-trip ticket on budget Icelandic carrier WOW Air to see her family for nine days.
She was due to leave Baltimore on Friday night.
WOW Air’s collapse on Thursday, after several failed attempts to line up investors, has Manos scrambling to find alternative flights. She already has the time off from the nonprofit where she handles marketing and communications.
Manos tried Icelandair, which is touting discounted fares for stranded WOW Air passengers on its website.
The cheapest fare they offered after 50 minutes on the phone: $1,015 round trip. The earliest she could get out was April 1. And she had to get to Boston for the flight.
“It’s basically false promotion,” she said.
Manos said she is searching other airlines for affordable tickets and that her family is seeing if they can cobble together enough frequent flier miles to get her there.
“I’ve taken my vacation days. I need to go,” she said.
Travelers stranded by WOW or holding tickets for future flights have limited options because last-minute flights are expensive, and flights to and from Europe on other carriers were never as cheap as WOW’s bargain flights even in advance. WOW’s flights included a stop at its home base in Iceland.
The airline with the purple planes was famous for $99 one-way tickets between the United States and Iceland and was touting those deals from Boston and Newark as recently as Wednesday. The airline has been shrinking recently due to its financial woes and had cut flights from many U.S. cities. It was down to four: Boston, Detroit, Newark and Baltimore.
Other airlines are offering help
Passengers can check other airlines to see if they are offering discounted fares for stranded WOW passengers, though travelers will still be out more money, in some cases a lot.
But beware the fine print.
- United Airlines and its Star Alliance partners are offering discounted fares on a variety of routes for WOW passengers for tickets purchased through April 12. The tickets are valid for travel through April 30. Tickets can only be purchased through United’s reservations center at 800-864-8331.Travelers must provide their WOW Air booking information including flight number.
- Icelandair’s offer of $160 fares between North America and Europe only applies to travelers whose trips are already underway, with a return ticket on WOW between March 28 and April 11. Travelers need to fill out an online form and then call 800-223 5500 to book the discounts.
- Norwegian’s offer of 25 percent off select routes applies to WOW passengers holding tickets for travel on those routes between March 29 and April 8, spokesman Anders Lindstrom said. The routes include Boston-Paris, Boston-London, Newark-Barcelona and New York-London. The offer cannot be booked online. Travelers must call the airline’s call center at 800-357-4159.
- Irish carrier Aer Lingus is offering special “rescue” fares for WOW travelers holding tickets for travel through April 11. They can be booked by calling 516-622-4222 from the United States. Aer Lingus says WOW passengers scheduled to fly after April 12 will find regular ticket prices starting at $569 round trip between the U.S. and Canada and Europe.
4 other tips for travelers affected by the WOW Air shutdown
1. Don’t show up at the airport hoping to magically find a replacement flight. There will be no WOW Air customer service desk to help you. The airline has gone out of business. A notice on its website offers passengers little help.
2. Call the credit card company you used to book your ticket immediately to see if it offers any protections in these cases. In the case of recently purchased tickets, you might be able to stop payment.
3. If you booked a ticket through a travel agency or partner airline, especially if it’s a vacation package, check your eligibility for a refund, advises AirHelp, which helps airline passengers claim airline compensation.
Travel booking app Hopper is taking the unusual, and generous, steps of refunding the ticket price for its customers booked on upcoming WOW flights and covering the cost of return flights for WOW passengers stranded when the airline suddenly went out of business Thursday. Spokeswoman Liana Corwin said the app is reaching out to the estimated 1,000 customers affected by WOW’s shutdown.
The Icelandic Airport Authority says passengers who bought their ticket from a European travel agent as a part of a package tour are protected by the Package Travel Directive. Those passengers are advised to contact their travel agent to arrange an alternative flight.
4. If you bought travel insurance, now’s the time to read the fine print. It might cover alternative flights, hotel accommodations and other expenses for stranded passengers. The Icelandic Airport Authority notes, though, that such compensation is often limited.
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