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Wow Air shutdown: Stranded passengers in Iceland respond to closed airlines



Wow Air's latest Instagram post before the airline suddenly shuts down, captures Kirkjufell's splendor, a postcard-perfect mountain on Iceland's Snaefellsnes peninsula. But the picture quickly became a magnet for sarcastic comments and customer warnings because of its origins: It was taken by a stranded traveler unsure of how he would come home.

"When your flights are canceled three weeks before your trip and you do not get refunded" wrote an Instagram user, accompanied by four smiley faces. Another wrote, "I can think of lots of words to describe wow airlines and amazing is not one of them." Another posted a huge "F."

Austin Graff, a talent branding and recruiting manager in The Washington Post, had snatched the photo from Airbnb, which he and a friend shared during a hunt for the island nation. He had booked the trip after seeing a Facebook post about cheap Wow Air flights to Reykjavik, which spun a return ticket from Baltimore to the Icelandic capital to $ 201

. Graff and his companion had to leave Friday.

For the first time, Graff became aware of Wow Air disturbances on Wednesday when he saw Twitter chatting about canceled European flights and began tracking social media closely. On Thursday morning, eating breakfast at his hotel, he saw a news announcement about the airline's collapse. Fear of the logistical nightmare ahead – stuck in a foreign country with family and jobs waiting at home – Graff quickly searched kayak and Vayama travel sites for way out.

Within minutes, he booked a return trip on Icelandair. It cost $ 375, a huge prize over his original outlay, but he chalked it up as the price of peace of mind. He was sure he had just secured his journey home.

He was wrong.

When it was time to check in for his Icelandair flight, Graff learned that he and his friend had been in standby, probably because of many other Wow Air passengers scrambling to return to America.

Graff returned to the internet for help, googling "stranded wow air passages."

He was referred to the Icelandair website, which said Wow Air passengers could buy special discount tickets back to the US for $ 100. However, after completing a web form and receiving the reference number, he had to share with an agent at the other end of a hotline. , Graff was instead greeted by an automated phone recording that referred him back to the homepage where he started. [19659012] "It was a circle without human interaction," Graff said.

Icelandair's website said that Wow Air customers could reach their reps via Facebook Messenger and Twitter. Graff tried it too. And Instagram for good. said

Icelandair did not respond promptly to a request for comment.

When Graff's standby flight was not scheduled to leave yet another day, he drove to Reykjavik airport on Thursday night with an attempt to get some answers: Can he get a confirmed seat or stay in standby limbo? Can he get a "rescue" fare for $ 100? What about redirecting him through Paris or London, where there are more flights back to the US?

But Graff arrived at the airport to find the Icelandair desks deserted. "We went there and searched for answers to talk to a human being, but no one was there," he said.


Reynisfjara Beach on the south coast. (Austin Graff / Washington Post / Austin Graff / Washington Post) 19659018] For some regular passengers, the cost of yet another day may be a financial burden, he said.

"Iceland is a beautiful country to be stranded, but it's so expensive," Graff said.

Many Wow Air customers had been won with ultra-low prices and a cheap Icelandic holiday. But a free night or two at a hotel along with food and other costs may prove more than a hassle.

The locals told Graff that he is one of about. 5,000 stranded Wow Air passengers.

Graff is trying to make the most of the situation.

"The father's side is a little stressed – I will relieve my wife, and my daughter is angry with me that I am gone," he said. "But the adventure-seeking side of me is excited about this because I have to have more to do. "

Wow Air gave a little warning about its dead Thursday – it had offered under $ 200 fares from Baltimore, Detroit, New York and Boston that day – when it issued an early morning warning that all flights had been canceled and urged ticket holders to search elsewhere to complete their tours. 19659026] In a section of the warning entitled "What are my rights?" Outlined the airline how some passengers are entitled to compensation. Those who bought travel insurance or bought their tickets with a credit card that provides travel protection may be able to recover some costs, although "such compensation is often limited."

The airline said it may be required to repay passengers in accordance with European regulations. "In the event of bankruptcy, claims must be submitted to the administrator / liquidator," said the company.

The airline's customer support account on Twitter was hit with request upon request for help. A large number of excuses in public announcements also instructed clients to send their booking information through private, direct messages for assistance. Customers complained about canceled flights, required refunds and requested new bookings to continue their travels.

Those who booked their Wow Air journey on the Hopper app will receive a refund, says Hopper CEO Frederic Lalonde on Thursday. He also said it would cover rebooking costs for those close to 1000 Hopper customers affected by the decommissioning.

Icelandair had agreed to buy Wow Air last year. Both airlines had fought against higher oil prices, lowered tourism to Iceland and competition from rivals offering direct flights to Europe. But the deal was evaporated.

A private equity firm recently discussed investing in Wow Air, but last week, the airline announced that the company had supported itself. In a last uneven effort just a week ago, the company said it had resumed talks with Icelandair for a possible takeover, the Financial Times reported.

Wow Air was founded in 2011 with employment in Iceland, the capital city of Reykjavik. about 1,000 people, according to the company's website. The airline flew 3.5 million passengers last year, serving airports in Europe, the US, Canada and Israel.

Wow Air's termination of operations follows the fall of another European low cost airline, Primera Air, which folded in less than two months after launching regular service between Dulles International Airport and London's Stansted Airport. As with Wow Air, Primera Air left its sudden cancellations many passengers stranded on both sides of the Atlantic.

On Friday afternoon, Graff and his friend learned that they had seats on an Icelandair flight to Dulles International Airport. Others were not so lucky. Other jets for stranded passengers were overbooked, he said, and some people may not come home late next week.

Austin Graff contributed to this report from Reykjavik.


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