Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — WOW Air’s demise is the latest reminder that while ultra low-cost carriers can launch with much fanfare, they can also fail just as spectacularly. And now agents will be fielding calls from desperate travellers stranded by an airline that had financial turbulence for months and didn’t pay commission.
After failed attempts to secure funding from investors, a buy-out deal from one-time rival Icelandair that fell through, and numerous cancelled flights in the past few days, WOW Air has announced it has ceased operations, stranding passengers on either side of the Atlantic.
WOW’s Canadian operations included flights out of Toronto and Montreal to numerous destinations in Europe via Reykjavik. In 2017 it added flights to Tel Aviv from both Toronto and Montreal, and in 2018 it announced India flights via Reykjavik as well. And in October 2018 WOW announced it was planning to launch flights out of Vancouver in summer 2019.
The ultra low-cost carrier launched in 2012 and ramped up at a furious pace, expanding quickly – too quickly, as it turns out. High fuel costs didn’t help.
At its peak, with more than three dozen destinations, WOW Air was reporting up to 60% annual growth in passenger numbers. Its revenue per passenger, however, didn’t keep up and dropped by about 20% in 2017.
In a statement on its website WOW Air advises stranded passengers “to check available flights with other airlines”, for so-called rescue fares. Fares paid by credit card may qualify for chargeback refunds.
— blogTO (@blogTO) March 28, 2019
According to reports from The Associated Press, WOW Air has grounded at least six planes in North America that were set to leave late Wednesday from Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Detroit, New York and Baltimore.
In Europe, Reykjavik-bound planes from seven cities – Amsterdam, Dublin, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt and Copenhagen – did not take off this morning.
The Canadian travel industry has seen quite a few LCCs and ULCCs come and go, from blink-and-you’ll-miss-them Roots Air and Greyhound Air (infamous for its anti-agent advertising campaign), to Jetsgo, to major carriers like Canada 3000.
In recent years the Canadian market has seen a new wave of ULCCs and LCCs take on the transatlantic market. WOW Air’s failure comes less than six months after the demise of Primera Air which offered London (Stansted) and Paris out of Toronto and was weeks away from offering Paris out of Montreal.
TICO has posted a Closure Advisory for the airline, advising consumers who purchased a Wow Air travel services from an Ontario travel agency or website, and will not receive their travel services due to the cessation of the airline, that they may file a claim from the Comp Fund for reimbursement. The filing deadline is Sept. 30. Consumers who paid by credit card and who have been charged by the airline should contact their credit card company and request a chargeback as well as request a claim form from TICO.
The TICO advisory is at https://www.tico.ca/news/advisory/327-closure-advisory-wow-air.html
Quebec’s Office of Consumer Protection (OPC) has issued an advisory as well, telling travellers who purchased their WOW Air ticket from a Quebec licensed travel agent that they may be eligible for protection from the Travel Agent Compensation Fund (FICAV).
The OPC’s advisory is at https://www.opc.gouv.qc.ca/en/news/communiques/article/wow-air/.