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WOW Air announces its bankruptcy. All flights cancelled. Your recourse.

To the point It is not a surprise... after months of agony - which we have regularly reported to you - WOW Air has finally announced its bankruptcy. What are your recourses... and the foreseeable consequences for transatlantic airfares.

Find out at the end of this article how points and miles from rewards programs
can save you in this kind of situation

wow air fin

WOW AIR in bankruptcy

We had the opportunity to test this company, shortly after the launch of the Montreal – Rekjavik route. If the comfort was basic and the services reduced to the strict minimum, it was a company allowing to go to Europe via Iceland at a reasonable cost.

While WOW Air had reduced its fleet size by 20% and its seat capacity by 25%. In the space of a few days in November 2018and that it had cancelled all its long-haul flights such as to India and many North American destinations, this was not enough to consider a takeover by other investors.

Both its competitor Icelandair and Indigo Partners have thrown in the towel in the face of the abysmal debts of the Icelandic ultra-low-cost airline.

Today, the ultra-low cost company WOWAir announces the end of its operations. All flights are cancelled.

a wow air device at kef
a device from WOW air to KEF

The statements of WOW Air

WOW Air does not go out of its way for passengers:

  1. you will have to find other solutions on your own for your travel plans with other companies
  2. you have to see with your credit card company to be reimbursed: the company being in bankruptcy, it is not able to do it itself!

bankruptcy wow declarations

Your recourse

WOW Air is not the first ultra-low cost airline to go bankrupt. The latest was Primera AIR which was supposed to fly from Paris to Montreal. Let’s look at your recourse:

The Quebec Consumer Protection Act

In a previous bankruptcy, Charles Tanguay – spokesman for the Office de la protection du consommateur – told La Presse:

The Quebec Consumer Protection Act provides that, in the case of distance commerce, the customer is entitled to a chargeback if he or she has paid by credit card for goods or services not rendered

Several conditions must be met for this law to apply:

  • Payment must have been made with a credit card
  • From a computer located in Quebec

The European regulation CE 261/2004

The European regulation on delays and cancellations of flights by European carriers OR from/to the European Union will not be of much use here: the company no longer exists… and therefore cannot reimburse you.

And chances are, you’ll be the last one standing in the bankruptcy settlement.

But if you want to try your luck, read this article to find out how!

What are the steps – laborious – to obtain reimbursement?

You have made your reservation via an online agency?

If your reservation was made on a site recognized by the compensation fund such as Expedia, you are automatically covered by the Compensation Fund for Travel Agents’ Clients.

compensation fund quebec

You will have to contact the agency directly to obtain a refund.

Call your credit card issuer

Within 60 days, you must call your credit card issuer to explain the situation: you will not get the service (airline ticket) that you purchased on such and such a date on your credit card.

amex visa mastercard

The issuer is obligated to issue a refund to your credit card. If the issuer explains to you that the bankruptcy of an airline is not provided for in the insurance contract, remind him that your purchase was made from Quebec and that the Quebec consumer protection law applies.

In the facebook group, several members report having been reimbursed by their credit card company (including Visa Desjardins), the bankruptcy being confirmed.

Solutions to reach Europe

There are different solutions available to you in this case of emergency: Icelandair’s special fares, travel hacking techniques to find a low cost flight… and points & miles from rewards programs!

Icelandair’s special fares

Icelandair has announced special fares from March 28 to April 11 for WOW Air passengers.

icelandair wow

The price for the discounted fare tickets will be priced at USD 60 (excluding taxes and fees) to Europe, and to US/Canada, the price will be USD 100 (excluding taxes and fees).

You will need to fill out a form on the Icelandair website and contact the company by phone OR via social networks:

How to find a cheap flight again?

Now that you don’t have a plane ticket, find out
in our travel hacking article on how to find a cheap flight thanks to different tools.

google flights

Points & miles rewards programs to the rescue!

Otherwise, for those who have points and miles… now is the time to use them! Especially since at the last minute, there are usually “award seats” that become available!

For example on Aeroplan, those who were going to Europe tonight, there is this flight on United to Paris for 30,000 Aeroplan miles and $90:

united paris last minute

Or this flight tomorrow evening via Zurich with Swiss:

swiss eco cdg wow

Regular companies… very serious!

Now is the time to use your credit card travel points to limit the damage to your new ticket purchase! Example with points from the American Express Cobaltᵐᶜ Card:

cobalt transat

You don’t know the points & miles for free travel (…or almost!)?

  1. Learn more in our beginner’s guide
  2. Join our facebook group “Travel for free (or almost…!) with your points & miles – milesopedia”

Forecasts for the transatlantic tariffs

WOW Air, with its very aggressive fares – but unsustainable in the long run as demonstrated by its bankruptcy – had forced most transatlantic carriers to review their fare structures for flights between Europe and North America.

Here is an example of the implementation of a FIRST baggage fee on Air Transat:

air transat luggage

Thus, most of the passengers have lost in comfort because of the arrival of WOW AirAll airlines (Air Canada, Air France, Air Transat…) have decided to charge for checked baggage as well as various other services – such as meals on board for some – following the example of WOW Air.

Airlines are progressively removing services in order to “virtually” lower fares and appear first in search engines like Skyscanner.

So, the ticket price is certainly low and very enticing, but many fees are added afterwards for those who want a little more comfort like fees of:

  • checked baggage
  • cabin baggage
  • meals on board
  • choice of seat
  • ….

On the other hand, “basic” prices for a transatlantic flight have never been so low: it is now not uncommon to see flights between Montreal and Paris for around CA$450-500 (without luggage, without meals).

WOW Air has turned this market upside down… but what will be left of it all without its presence?

As we stated during the Primera Air bankruptcy, in our opinion, the race for “all optional services” can only be detrimental to the consumer.

It is likely that transatlantic flight fares will rise again… but that the lack of service (luggage, meals…) will remain. A lose-lose solution for all passengers: from the backpacker who was delighted to be able to travel at low cost without luggage and without service… to the families who are now obliged to pay for their first hold baggage.

Bottom Line

The disappearance of WOW Air is a loss for the competition of airlines in the transatlantic flights. This disappearance follows the withdrawal of the company Norwegian which had started its flights to the Caribbean (and was considering transatlantic links to Canada), to finally throw in the towel, it too, in a catastrophic financial situation

Other low-cost airlines have entered this market, such as Level, which has the advantage of being backed by the IAG group behind British Airways / Iberia. It remains to be seen whether this will last… or whether it will be replaced by the big players such as British Airways, Air France, Air Canada or Air Transat on transatlantic flights.

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!
Jean-Maximilien is an expert in Canada and France about Loyalty programs, Credit cards and Travel. He is the Founding President of Milesopedia.

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