Icelandic airline Wow Air has suddenly stopped all flights, leaving thousands of passengers stranded around the world.
A travel alert published on Wow Air’s website said that the airline is ceasing all operations and cancelling future flights as efforts to raise more money failed. The airline, which flew a total of 3.5 million passengers last year, advised passengers to book new flights on other airlines, and said some may be eligible for compensation.
“The reality is that we have run out of time and have unfortunately not been able to secure the funding of the company,” said Wow CEO and founder Skuli Mogensen in a letter to the company’s 1,000 employees, Reuters reported. Wow Air operated short and long-haul routes to various cities in Europe, and to Washington, Boston and Detroit in the U.S.
In the travel alert released on Thursday, Wow Air said that passengers scheduled on flights to or from Iceland with Wow Air on March 28 can cancel their reservation for a full refund, or change their reservation to the next available Wow flight. Passengers are concerned they will not get a refund on the abruptly cancelled flights.
“If a person booked directly through Wow Air, there’s limited protection and it’s hard to say whether people will be fully refunded, but if they booked through a travel operator they’re more likely to be refunded or compensated,” a spokesperson from the London-based Civil Aviation Authority, who did not wished to be named, tells TIME.
Advice for passengers
So far, two airlines have stepped in to help. Icelandair announced it’s going to give stranded passengers discounted fares to and from North America (Boston, Edmonton, New York, Toronto and Washington D.C) starting at 100 dollars, and to and from Europe at 60 dollars (excluding taxes and fees). Norwegian Air also said repatriation fares would be available at a 25% discount until April 8, subject to availability and only with a valid Wow Air booking.
The Icelandic Transport Authority (ICETRA) tells TIME that they are offering people stuck in the U.K. an alternative route using the EasyJet airline from Edinburgh, London Gatwick and London Luton airports to Keflavik Airport in Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík. It is also providing rescue fee of £110 cover the cost of flight. This only applies to customers returning to Iceland up to April 14 and they must request it before April 7, or they will have to pay out of their own pocket to get home.
ICETRA writes that passengers who bought their ticket from a European travel agent (within the European Economic Area) as a part of a holiday package are protected by the Package Travel Directive, an E.U. law protecting consumers who purchase package holidays. Those passengers should contact their travel agent to arrange an alternative flight.
Passengers who bought travel protection, or whose credit card terms may include such protection, might be entitled to claim compensation and assistance due to delays or travel disruption. But such compensation is often limited.
Disgruntled passengers and relatives have been sharing their experiences on social media.
Other passengers are criticizing WOW for the lack of communication about refunds, with one person complaining that they were supposed to get money back six weeks ago.