WOW Goes Bust

In case you missed the major WOW airlines news this morning, they have ceased operation. “All WOW AIR flights have been cancelled.” – WOW website. But what does this mean for WOW passengers?

Well, it means they are stuck. Because of the lack of service and funding WOW is crazy enough not responsible to get people home. It may sound shocking, but this is truly the case for many (if not all) airlines. Luckily most airlines are willing to pick up the slack. IcelandAir is offering discounted rates to WOW Air customers as long as they fill out a form first. It is on a first come first serve basis, but they are cheap and thankfully assisting these poor stranded travelers.

According to The New York Times, “Wow Air’s financial struggles had been a source of concern in Iceland. The finance minister said contingency plans were in place if the airline collapsed, including assistance for stranded passengers, but added that the government would not rescue the airline, according to local news reports.” Iceland has less than 400,000 people, but over 2.2 million visited last year alone. This was mainly due to the fact that tourism to the country was increased because of free layovers, up to 7 days. This gave may travelers an opportunity to explore a country they may not have planned for in the past, it gave them a 2-for-1 shot on their cross Atlantic flights.

They grew, but they grew too quickly. Expanding at an extremely quick pace set them up for unsustainable productivity. At one point WOW had 47 destinations for its fleet of 20 aircraft. However, by November of 2018 the fleet was starting to shrink and with it destinations. The US went from 15 destinations to 4. Initially blaming mechanical issues, the routes were canceled shortly after that announcement.

Europe also was loosing destinations, but people continued to buy tickets. WOW was struggling way back in early 2018 with higher fuel prices that led to a loss of $33.7 billion dollars through September of 2018. Their appeal, cheap tickets and nickle and diming of perks (bags, seats, food) allowed many people to fulfill their desire to explore another country. But none of this was enough to save the ill-fated WOW Air.

They shuttered their doors on 3/28/19 – and while it leaves many unemployed, many stranded – the big question remains what will the impact to the Icelandic economy be? Will another airline be able to pick up the economic slack of this loss for the country or will we see another recession hit Iceland a mere 11 years after the devastation in 2008.

WOW!! We got blown out of Iceland

Today was our final day in Iceland. We started the day off with breakfast on the top floor of our hotel. The bread in this country is just amazing. Always so light and fluffy, full of flavor. After breakfast we headed out for our last little excursion – a trip to the city’s church (Hallgrimskirkja)

Apparently Christianity has been around for like ever on Iceland. However, while 90% or so of the island is Christian (mostly Lutheran) there are not that many religious people and about 55% of the island believes in elves, so take all these numbers with a grain of salt. Anyway, this church was started back in the mid 40s and finished mid 80s. So this church, Hallgrimskirkja is a Lutheran church – interesting style and made to stand out.

It has a HUGE organ and to me the outside of the building also looks like a weird organ. You can take an elevator ride up to the top floor (level 6) and then walk up 2 flights of stairs to the clock tower. From there you get a beautiful view of the city. It was something like $9.

We were greeted at the top of the church with a wonderfully powerful wind storm outside. We were watching the freezing rain whip and whirl, people hustling and trying to protect themselves from the crazy weather. We headed down after checking out the views and attempted to head out of the church. The wind was strong enough to move you. Strong enough to make you second guess how much you should be pushing against it. And then BOOM, it was gone. So we moved quickly to get down a street to get a bit more protection from the wind.

By this time we realized we needed to eat again before our flights, but that we werent hungry. So option 2 – go pack. We headed back to the hotel to pack up our belongings. After what seemed like far too long to take to pack, we headed out to lunch. The expert she is, Lauren was able to find us another vegan hot dog place. And once again, it did NOT disappoint. It wasnt served on a bun, but instead with some roasted root vegetables and micro greens. I loved it. Lauren was able to get a final Icelandic beer before we headed out. So we left full, happy and relaxed (or as much as one can be….)

We walked back to the hotel and grabbed our things, checked out (cuz you still gotta do that here) and hit the road to the airport. KEF is about 45 minutes from downtown Reykjavik and we also needed to get gas and return our rental car. So first of course, find gas. They had two stations within minutes of the airport, so I picked the closer of the two to our destination. What I have learned about Iceland and their fuel pumps is that they are not reliable. Today the issue was with the internet connection. Both times Ive had an issue with a pump its been an extremely windy day. Regardless of the reasons, I had to venture to the other gas station. I fueled up one last time and headed to Ace-Rent-A-Car to drop our little car off. This is when we found out Lauren’s flight was over an hour delayed.

A now extinct WOW airlines flight attendant

Once at the airport we parted ways to check our bags and we were supposed to meet back up by Lauren’s bag check area, but apparently that was not at the actual WOW airlines desk. I should back track a bit….Lauren is flying WOW air to Boston. WOW air is currently trying to avoid shutting down. We have been hearing rumors that no one will be bailing them out and you will be stuck if they shut down. So last night Lauren found another flight as back up on IcelandAir if WOW was to go out of business before her flight.

Ok, back to the story. So I checked in and went to the WOW desk and there was no Lauren. So I waited a minute, went and did my tax free paperwork and then went back to WOW. Still, no Lauren. So I sent her an email and headed up through security. I got a special “fast track” line because of my upgrade on IcelandAir. Didnt do me much good because they pulled all my stuff off to be checked. I was waiting and watching for Lauren – and all of a sudden there she was, on the other side of security! We met back up and hit the Duty Free shop. No wine gums could be found in said Duty Free.

We walked around the airport a bit, and I went to see if I could bring a guest to the lounge, but no such luck. While I was upstairs Lauren got an email from WOW asking them to come to the gate in an attempt to beat the weather they were going to try and board and leave as early as possible (while still being delayed). They assigned her gate and off she went! I headed back up to the lounge to gab some snacks and a 7up before the flight.

When they assigned my gate I headed out, still needing to hit passport control. When I got downstairs, apparently every person in Iceland was also hitting passport control. We weaved and weaved and weaved. But it was so fast. They are just so relaxed here, its a nice change from the States. I walked to my gate and they basically started the check in process right away. I hopped in line, and got on the plane. And I have NO ONE next to me, tons of leg room and a fancy meal coming my way shortly!

I had an amazing time exploring Iceland with Lauren – we did so much laughing, it was like we worked out! We’ve already set up our google doc for our next trip – so be on the lookout for the next L&L adventure! Before that adventure I will be hitting up Maui, Hawaii in April, an Alaskan cruise in July and have decisions to make about the fall!! Safe travels everyone!

Ok, so DRAMA!! About 3 hours into my flight there was some bustling around happening a few rows in front of me. Of course, being a nosy Nelly I had to do my best to get all the info. This lady seemed drunk and was basically yelling “Im going to hijack the plane” and then rambling things I couldnt hear in my seat. It was about 15 minutes of scuffle before the 5 flight attendants were able to get her to walk back into coach and put her in a row all on her own. At this point she was handcuffed!! They then proceeded to strap her down to her seat, legs, chest, etc; while she remained handcuffed behind her back. She continued yelling for a bit and even said “Im fine, this happens sometimes, this has happened before.” Needless to say it made for an interesting hour or so of chatting about it up in front.

When we landed the EMS, Fire and Police came on board, a police officer said “No one on this plane is getting off.” So everyone sat back down. It was about 20 minutes of talking to her and negotiating with her to get her off the plane. We then had to wait about another 10 minutes before they let us disembark. The poor father who had to deal with all the drama, he got police escorted through customs, passport control and luggage area. Other passengers were getting upset over the fact that passport control was taking longer than they wanted it to, even calling out minorities as non-Americans in the US passport line (they were all Americans, by the way). Happy to have gotten in my Uber and hit the road home!

Iceland

Looking to head to Iceland – to see what the hype is all about? Here are some things you should keep in mind!

  • Almost everyone speaks English (but you should get the Google Translate App just in case to read signs, packaging, instructions, etc)
  • They take American Express! Random fact, but it can be difficult to find an Amex accept-er outside the US. And here they take it! (Check your credit cards and debit cards to see who has the best/lowest international transaction fees)
  • Their gas stations only take debit card or cash – or a credit card with a pin! Many gas stations are unmanned, but the system is pretty much self explanatory. Keep in mind, it works exactly like the US – it verifies you have enough to cover a FULL tank (or you can pick a smaller set amount) and then you only actually pay what you use.
  • Many gas stations have a grocery store or restaurant in the parking lot or very near. Utilize them! Food is very expensive here – your best bet is to stock up on snacks and food that you can cook at your Airbnb or Hostel.
  • Bringing your own reusable bags will come in handy as well. Iceland is actually very green (reusable energy, recycling, minimal waste, etc) Lauren recommends these. They are silicon, water resistant (think phone in wet situations), and perfect for holding sandwiches, oatmeal (bowl on the run), cut veggies, etc. They also take up like no room in your luggage to get here!
  • The weather really can change every 5 minutes. It may sound crazy, but the weather there can be unpredictable and random. From snow to sleet to rain to sun – expect it all and expect it all in an hour.
  • Bring gloves in the winter – the amount of times your hands spend out them taking pictures is almost equal to the amount of time your hands are in them – but your little fingers will thank you for the warmth.
  • Get out of Reykjavik. In most cases its actually cheaper to rent a car than to take the day tours out of the city. There is so much more to see outside of the city (like the rest of the entire island) so get out and explore the hidden gems of this beautiful country.
  • If you rent the car, get at least the gravel protection – they offer a million different plans, but the gravel protection is the most useful. This is especially true if you go North in the country.
  • Make a list of the things you want to see and on your way to see them you will end up seeing even more than you planned. Be prepared to have your plans altered due to weather.
  • Many of the attractions here are free – unless you do a tour – so take advantage of that and see all you can!
  • Unless you do tours, I would recommend about $75-100 a day for budgeting purposes once you are on your trip. You will probably come home with money (unless you drink a lot or do tours) but this would cover food, gas and souvenirs.
  • I would budget about $50-100/night for housing. Using Airbnb gives you options – but if you are traveling solo you are looking at $100-150/night for Airbnbs. In that case I would use hostels (they have many) to save some cash. If you can really splurge on your trip stay at FossHotels – primo properties with modern flare!
  • You can really only find true more, American style hotels in Reykjavik – otherwise they are more like guest houses. They may call themselves hotels – but they may only be 6-8 room quarters, some you even have communal WC.
  • Stores close pretty early here, usually between 6-7pm. Restaurants are open later usually until about 10pm. If you want groceries or to shop, get out early!
  • No need to tip! Another nice benefit of leaving the US is not needing to tip – there is a service charge in your price, so just swipe, sign and walk!

What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest?

Stand up! Ok, ok, I cant take credit for that amazing joke – and Im sure our guide cant either – but it was hilarious and I loved it, so I had to share!

Lets get into today! Let me start by saying I slept like a rock – I dont know how or why, but my body clearly needed sleep. I even slept through Lauren’s alarm! It was our last Airbnb and last place with a kitchen so Lauren made herself some oatmeal and enjoyed her breakfast before we hit the road. We packed up and headed to this like Viking ship looking building. (we thought it was a church, but still dont know for sure). Snapped a picture this odd building and decided to head down to the little downtown area of Stykkisholmur. Turns out there isnt much there at all! We parked and attempted to find cute little stores, but they dont exist there! Its a fishing village looking place and not much else. Disappointed we headed out of town toward, YARNVILLE! (Alafoss)

Today was a day all about Lauren and her happy places. But first, we had to stop a water fall and cross under water in a tunnel – and that was like of course an awesome thing that I nerded out over. It was a 6km tunnel that was built to cut down on travel time from the north, used to be a toll road, but now its free!! (woohoo!!)

When we arrived at Alafoss Lauren was giddy. This place is like her heaven. The store is all things wool and yarn – and we saw everything! Lauren got her wool fix with some bundles (Im sure they have a name for them) to make a sweater, but not before looking at every color and style and texture. She was just lit up with joy!! After she bought enough to get the tax back we walked up the small little hill to check out the rest of the town (only like 50 people live there) but there wasnt much else to see.

After Alafoss we headed into Reykjavik. We are staying at a pretty nice hotel tonight and because I am an Orbitz VIP or whatever we got free drinks and entrance into the spa. Could this trip have ended any better?? We checked in and headed to the room to relax for about 30 minutes before heading off to the CityWalk tour. (I would recommend doing a walking tour in ANY city you can!) Our guide Nanna was a true Scandinavian girl – blonde hair and all! She was a great guide, was always loud enough and added plenty of humor. Remember that joke from the beginning, that was Nanna. We learned more history about Iceland that we didnt know and got a nice little tour of the city. After our walk we headed to dinner.

On our way to dinner, we ran into Lauren’s second happiest place – a Christmas shop! She likes ornaments for her Christmas tree. So we stopped in to get her one! And I got Bill an elf named Hugo! (by the by, I dont buy souvenirs for people!) But he asked about the elves so I got him one.

And finally we arrived at our dinner local. Lauren had done some research to find a vegan hot dog place. It should be noted that the Icelanders LOVE hot dogs. In fact most things close early (like 7, restaurants 10) but the hot dog stands stay open well into the night, closing at 1am. Anyway, back to the vegan hot dog. This place was like a cafeteria, but high end. We proceeded to order (2) vegan hot dogs (they come with cronions, mustard, ketchup, pickles, and some secret sauce thing), a side of smooshed potatoes and grilled sourdough bread with herbed butter. And it was DIVINE!! Like so good!! Who knew pickles would add so much and who knew a VEGAN hot dog could be so good!! I am NOT a vegan, but I dont eat red meat or pork – or anything, so hot dogs arent something Ive had in YEARS. But today I had one and it was just so lovely. Our waitress was from Colorado who had met her boyfriend while studying abroad in Prague and moved here to be with him. We learned a whole lot of random things about her and very much enjoyed hearing about life here.

After dinner we headed out to find some ice cream. I had heard it was good and they werent kidding. Lauren was even able to get vegan sorbet. I got white chocolate and toblerone – Lauren got passion fruit and strawberry. All were amazing and didnt disappoint. We took our ice cream and walked to the concert hall that Reykjavik finished in 2011. Its a pretty cool looking building sitting on the water front and was meant as a tour attraction for their new tourism push starting that same year.

We finished the night with (free) drinks in the top floor bar (woohoo for VIP). Lauren got the two free drinks and I got a Sprite. Basically like $50 worth of drinks for $4 (woohoo for VIP, again!). After our beverages we headed down to the room to change and hit the SPA!! It of course involved robes and slippers, a hot tub and sauna. We enjoyed our time, talked to some Americans who loved to embarrass their 15 year old son who wasnt even there.

Sad to say tomorrow is our last day in this beautiful country – but we are already planning our next trip for next May…where will we go next??