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.
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.
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!