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WOW Airlines Collapses, Leaving Thousands Without Flights

2019-3-28

Iceland’s WOW air suspended operations and cancelled all its flights on Thursday without warning.

The move left thousands of passengers in North America and Europe without transportation.

In a statement on its website, the airline company told passengers there would be no more flights. It advised them to find flights with other airlines.

A picture taken on August 6, 2018 shows a Wow plane on the tarmac of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport, north of Paris. Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)
A picture taken on August 6, 2018 shows a Wow plane on the tarmac of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport, north of Paris. Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

WOW air was the creation of Icelandic businessman Skuli Mogensen. The airline was founded in late 2011, with its first flight coming six months later.

The company specialized in low-cost travel across the Atlantic Ocean. Its main cities were Reykjavik, London, Paris, New York and Washington, D.C.

In 2013, the airline grew as a result of its low ticket prices and a marketing campaign aimed at making Iceland a popular destination for foreign travelers.

WOW air flew travelers to a total of 16 cities in 2015. By 2018, it offered flights to 36 destinations in Europe, North America and Asia. The company reported a 60 percent increase in passenger numbers.

But then those numbers began to fall, and the company began having difficulties with its finances.

Wow Air announced a pre-tax loss of almost $60 million in the first half of 2018. It was forced to fly fewer airplanes and pay back more debt.

By 2019, the number of planes was cut from 20 to 11 and the company stopped serving several cities, including some in the United States. It also cut jobs.

For the past six months, Mogensen had been seeking investors to keep the airline in the sky.

The first interested buyer was Icelandair. When those negotiations failed, the American company operating the airline Wizz, Indigo Partners, expressed interest, but also passed on investing. Icelandair reconsidered its decision, but by this morning those negotiations collapsed.

“I will never forgive myself for not acting sooner,” Mogensen said in a letter to employees Thursday. “WOW was clearly an incredible airline, and we were on the path to doing amazing things again.”

More than 1,000 people will lose their jobs.

WOW air grounded at least six planes that were set to fly late Wednesday from six airports in North America.

In Europe, flights to Iceland from seven cities did not take off Thursday morning.

Passenger Kimberly Worthy was waiting at the airport in Iceland. She told CNN television she was supposed to fly home to Atlanta.

“I arrived and there were no signs for WOW and when I asked about how to check in, the only response I got was: Check your email. Wow doesn't fly here anymore,” she said.

I’m Alice Bryant.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in this Story

destination – n. a place to which a person is going

ticketn. a document or piece of paper showing that payment was made for a show or ride

incredible – adj. extremely good, great, or large

amazing adj. causing wonder; surprising

check v. to compare with something; to inspect or examine