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
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.  "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.