Wow Air, the low-cost Icelandic carrier that gave us $99 fares from the U.S. to Iceland, has ceased flying, leaving thousands of customers holding worthless tickets. What do you do if you’re one of them?
►Call your credit card company immediately, assuming you paid with a credit card. That’s standard advice and also what Wow is advising on its website.
Credit card companies are your champion if you have an issue, but there is often a 60-day window in which to seek that help.
"If you purchased your flight more than 60 days ago, your first move should be to find out if your card offers travel protection coverage that includes bankruptcy or insolvency as a covered event,” Arielle O'Shea, personal finance expert for NerdWallet, said in an email. “If it doesn't, try disputing the charge online, then call the card issuer and explain the situation. They may be willing to work with you, given the circumstances."
►If you bought travel insurance, also call to find out whether you are covered.
“The best chance consumers have for getting their money back hinges on whether they purchased travel insurance, or purchased their tickets with a credit card that offers travel insurance,” O'Shea said. “Travel insurance may cover financial insolvency or bankruptcy.
“You typically must file a written claim within 60 days of the incident, and be ready to show all receipts and the cancellation notification from the airline. It's a tedious process that won’t resolve the issue overnight, but it’s worth it to recover the ticket cost.”
►If you booked with the travel app Hopper, you will be covered, the site announced today. “We have decided to reimburse all Hopper customers who booked a Wow Air flight in full,” said a statement from Frederic Lalonde, chief executive and co-founder of Hopper. “We have also decided that Hopper will cover the full cost of rebooking for all of our stranded passengers in transit. Our team is currently getting in touch with our customers in transit via SMS and in-app push notification for more information.”
►If you booked with a travel agent, make that call a No. 1 priority.
►If you have neither a travel agent nor travel insurance, you’ll need to begin dealing with the domino effect on your other plans.
“The problem is if you’re holding a ticket for next week and you paid $300 for a round trip to Europe and booked a bunch of hotels that maybe you prepaid for,” said Seth Kaplan, aviation journalist and founding editor of Airline Weekly. “You can’t replace that flight for $300.” And you may not be able to get refunds for the rest, he added.
Sometimes, hotels and others will show mercy if you explain you’re still planning to visit but need to do so later. They may allow you to transfer to another date.
►Check to see whether you can get a “rescue fare.” Icelandair is offering “discounted economy fares for stranded passengers en route to, from or through Iceland,” it announced. The fares are for those who are already traveling and have a Wow return ticket for between March 28 and April 11, its website said.
It has set the price for those tickets at $100 to or from North American, which includes one carry-on bag of 23 pounds or less and one checked bag 50 pounds or less.
Aer Lingus also is offering reduced economy fares to Wow customers flying between Thursday and April 11.
►If you haven’t prepaid you hotel, rental car, etc., you’ll still need to cancel your plans if you can’t get a flight in time.
To find out more about what you can do, go to Wow Air’s PDF file.
►Going forward, keep an eye on aviation news. Wow’s struggles were a clear indicator that it was wobbly. An early sign: The airline ceased flights from LAX and San Francisco earlier this year.
“The bigger surprise would have been had they managed to stay in business,” Kaplan said. “It’s a low-cost, long-haul [airline] and that is a tough business to be in.”
It’s also tough if the scope of your business is just one country that isn’t a great tourist attraction in the winter. “It was way too much seat supply for a small market,” Kaplan said.