|Commenced operations||31 May 2012|
|Ceased operations||28 March 2019|
|Hubs||Keflavík International Airport|
|Key people||Skúli Mogensen (CEO and founder)|
WOW air hf. was an Icelandic ultra low-cost carrier founded in 2011 that operated services between Iceland, Europe, Asia, and North America. The airline was headquartered in Reykjavík and based at Keflavík International Airport. It ceased operations on 28 March 2019.
WOW air was founded in November 2011 by Icelandic entrepreneur, Skúli Mogensen whose extensive business background is largely in technology and telecoms in Iceland, Europe, and North America. The sole owner of WOW air is Titan, an investment company owned by Mogensen, who is the company CEO and sits on the five-person board of directors. It operated its inaugural flight in 2012.
In October 2012, WOW air acquired Iceland Express's operations and network. Iceland Express operated to several destinations in Europe and North America using leased equipment. At the end of October 2012, following the acquisition of its operations, flights to Gatwick and Copenhagen saw frequency increases, services to Berlin, Kaunas (which was later dropped again), Salzburg and Warsaw had begun.
The airline carried over 400,000 passengers in 2013 and reached its one millionth passenger in December 2014.
Since 2015, WOW air started expanding into North America, serving first the U.S., then Canada starting in May 2016. Flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco began in June 2016 using two Airbus A330-300 planes leased from Air Europa. WOW air's annual passenger capacity more than doubled in 2016 to over 1.6 million, from approximately 740,000 in 2015.
Criticism of pricing claims
In 2017, Wow Air was accused of spreading fake news through churnalism, after several media outlets reported as true Wow Air's allegedly false claim that it would fly passengers from London Stansted to New York for £99, which it said was below cost.
Difficulties and takeover talks
On 5 November 2018, it was announced that Icelandair Group, the holding company of rival carrier Icelandair, would acquire the entire share capital of WOW air, subject to shareholder approval; the two airlines would continue to operate under separate names. Together, Icelandair and WOW air have a share of around 3.8% of the transatlantic market. On 27 November 2018, WOW air announced that it had returned four aircraft to their lessors as a sale and lease back offer fell through and the company's financial situation worsened due to stricter demands by suppliers and contractors. The four returned aircraft (two Airbus A320s and two A330s) are owned by the same company that was supposed to deliver four Airbus A330neos to WOW air. On 29 November, Icelandair abandoned its takeover plans as the pre-conditions of the shareholders meeting were unlikely to be met.
The same day, Indigo Partners, which has stakes in several ultra low-cost carriers, reached a preliminary agreement to buy WOW air. Shortly after, WOW air announced major adjustments to its operations: the staff was reduced by 360 down to approx. 1,000, a further five aircraft (four Airbus A321s and the remaining A330) were to be phased out and the A330neos ordered would be cancelled. WOW air thus cancelled its routes to Delhi, Los Angeles, San Francisco (which was seasonal) and Vancouver (which was to be introduced as a seasonal route in 2019). In January 2019, WOW air disclosed that Indigo's investment would initially correspond to a 49% shareholding, with the option to increase at a later date. However, by March 2019, Indigo Partners withdrew its investment proposal and WOW air briefly but unsuccessfully resumed talks with Icelandair Group, but after Icelandair ran over their finances, they quickly dismissed the proposals. On 25 March 2019, the day after talks with Icelandair ceased, several WOW air flights were cancelled, fueling speculation as to the airline's fate. The airline attributed the cancellations to a technical failure and its knock-on effects, although two planes were immobilised after being repossessed by the lessor.
On 26 March 2019, WOW air announced the conversion of bonds into equity and ongoing discussions with bondholders to secure the company's sustainability. The following day, the company postponed all flights scheduled for 28 March "until documentation with all parties involved have been finalised."
End of operations
On 28 March 2019, WOW air announced that it was ceasing operations. All flights were cancelled and thousands of stranded passengers were advised to book flights with other airlines. The founder of the company, Skúli Mogensen, has spoken of a possible resurrection of the airline with a new, slow-growth business plan, if he receives the $40 million he needs. He plans to re-launch the company with 5 brand new Airbus A321neo's. Although the success of the re-launch in unlikely due to the poor track-record of WOW air. WOW air's website has now been taken down and shows a static update page.
Effects on Icelandic travel industry
Due to the market share of WOW air on the Icelandic air travel market, the airline's bankruptcy caused some disruption in the travel plans of multiple expected visitors.
Before March 2019, WOW air had operated services to a total of 20 year round and 6 seasonal destinations in Europe, the U.S., Canada, and the Middle East from its base at Keflavík International Airport.
|Airbus A321-200||5||—||8||192||200||1 was wet-leased to Aruba Airlines.|
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WOW AIR has ceased operation. All WOW AIR flights have been cancelled.
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- business-standard.com - Cheapest India-US flight to end as Wow Air set to exit Delhi route in Jan 14 December 2018
- routesonline.com - WOW air 2019 network adjustment as of 14DEC18 14 December 2018
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Bondholders have formally approved to convert their bonds into equity and formal discussions with investors have commenced to fund the company. This is an important milestone in financially restructuring the company and secure the long-term sustainability of WOW air.
- "Wow Air postpones flights ahead of new investment deal". Flight Dashboard. Flightglobal.com. 28 March 2019.
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Media related to WOW Air at Wikimedia Commons