Travelers were left stunned Thursday as WOW Air, a low-cost Icelandic carrier, unexpectedly collapsed and ceased all operations, leaving passengers stranded and demanding refunds for the thousands of dollars they’d spent on plane tickets.
“WOW AIR has ceased operation,” the airline said in a statement on its website after declaring bankruptcy. “All WOW AIR flights have been cancelled.”
The company urged customers to find flights home via other airlines and told people that “some airlines may offer flights at a reduced rate” due to the current circumstances.
“We’re all feeling very stressed out about it and very surprised,” said Jackie Lafferty, a 28-year-old Philadelphia health care worker on vacation in Iceland. Lafferty said she and her friends only learned of WOW Air’s abrupt collapse after being sent a news story when they woke up Thursday morning.
“We tried calling them,” Lafferty told BuzzFeed News, but said she was met with a constant ringing sound and no one picking up. “We tried tweeting them, emailing them, and didn’t get any response.”
Lafferty and her friends were among an estimated 10,000 people left stranded by the company’s collapse, according to the BBC.
Marc Solari, a 32-year-old New Hampshire resident, told BuzzFeed News he was due to fly to Iceland with WOW on Wednesday evening, but instead found himself stuck at Boston airport.
Unable to go on his trip, Solari was told to call the WOW support line, but said he “gave up on that after being on hold for 40 minutes” and went home.
“The most annoying thing for me at this point is the amount of dishonesty from WOW yesterday to not only their customers but also their employees who are then forced to deal with an angry mob of people throughout the entire night,” Solari said.
Solari said he was able to get a full refund from Fleetway, which he said called and offered him a full refund.
WOW could not be reached for comment because, well, it doesn’t exist anymore.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the airline, which was founded in 2011, sold some of its jets last year in a bid to raise money and had been trying to secure long-term funding for months.
Maryland civil servant Denise Eblen told BuzzFeed News she’d be missing her nephew’s christening in Ireland due to the airline going bust. When she looked up a new price on another airline for the $665 flight she’d originally booked, she was shocked to be faced with a $1,775 alternative.
The day the airline went bust, the company had been emailing customers promotional offers to upgrade their flights, according to evidence provided by both Eblen and Lafferty.
Veron Campagna, a 24-year-old server in Ontario, Canada, told BuzzFeed News she’d been left heartbroken after spending a sizable chunk of money on a dream trip to Europe.
“My girlfriend’s mom called us this morning and we thought, what in the world could she possibly want at 8 a.m.,” Campagna said. “We were literally shocked and had a big cry.”
Like many others, Campagna said she hasn’t had any communication with WOW Air and won’t know if she’ll be refunded by her bank for another one or two business days.
“The WOW airfares alone were about $1,000 that we currently don’t know if we can get back,” Campagna said. “And then about $1,000 on the rest of the travel.”
It seems as though WOW’s employees may have been in the dark about the company’s impending collapse.
Christopher Hecox, a student studying business at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said he spoke with a representative Wednesday because he’d noticed one of his flights from Iceland to Paris for his honeymoon was canceled.
Hecox, 27, said he called the representative to figure out what was happening and only while having a conversation did he find out that it wasn’t just one of his flights that was canceled, but all of them.
“I think he was just trying his best to fix the problem,” Hecox said of the rep. “I think he realized there were problems going on with the company at the time, and I don’t know what kind of pressure he had from the top there to just fix it and move on.”
“I was just trying to understand how big the problem was,” Hecox said, who was able to get a refund from his bank for the trip he was set to go on in May.
On its website, WOW advised customers to contact their credit card companies and travel agents to try to seek refunds.