The Slatest

A Stranded Wow Air Passenger on How She Found Out She’s Stuck in Europe

“Wow Air will be back with you shortly.”

This photograph taken on August 6, 2018, shows a Wow (Icelandic low-cost company) Airbus A321-200 aircraft being loaded with cargo on the tarmac at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport, north of Paris. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
A Wow Air jet last summer in France.
Joel Saget/Getty Images

Anna Hovland isn’t sure how she’s going to get back from her vacation in Europe. The airline that brought her and her boyfriend to Prague on Tuesday—and had been set to bring them back home—suddenly no longer exists. The plan had been to take the train to Berlin and then fly back to the U.S. from there next week. But that was before the Iceland-based discount airline Wow Air announced on Thursday that it was canceling all of its flights and ceasing operations. Wow indeed! Now Hovland, like the hundreds of other travelers who’ve been affected by Wow’s abrupt demise, is stuck trying to figure out new arrangements. When she’s not stranded in Europe, Hovland just so happens to be a project manager at Slate, so we called her quickly to get a sense of how the closure went down. Our lightly edited conversation is below.

Heather Schwedel: Why did you fly with Wow Air?

Anna Hovland: It was half the cost of other airlines, which is why I’ve been using Wow Air for so long. It’s such a good, well-priced economy flight. I remember when they first came to the D.C. area, it felt like a big deal because it meant that I could go to Europe more inexpensively. You don’t really get any amenities on the flights. You have to buy everything, including [the ability to bring] a carry-on bag. They are very cheap.

What did it cost exactly?

I think our round-trip ticket from Berlin to Baltimore was $500. It was a good deal.

How did you find out that the airline is closing?

My boyfriend’s colleague Slacked him about it. He said, “Did you hear Wow Air shut down?”

They didn’t alert you in any way?

They didn’t. Actually, earlier today, we got an email from them that asked if we wanted to upgrade our flight. Going to their site, there’s no real information about what customers can do other than request their credit card companies refund them or find another airline.

To me the funniest thing about it is that Wow Air didn’t communicate anything to us. My partner and I even went to their site to see if we could try to book a flight, and that’s even not taken down. If you go to Wow and try to input dates and hit search, it’s like “Something went wrong,” or like, “Wow Air will be back with you shortly.” When we saw that, we were both like, “No, it won’t.”

So you have to go through the credit card company to get your money back?

Yeah, you’re supposed to dispute your card charges.

Were there any signs on your flight that made it seem like the company was in bad shape?

I don’t think so. Nothing about it felt particularly out of the ordinary.

When were you supposed to go back?

Next Tuesday, so thankfully we have time to figure our shit out.

How much time has this taken out of your vacation?

So far, only a few hours, but we literally just heard of it from my boyfriend’s colleague.

What do you think your best prospect is for getting home?

Maybe Icelandair or Norwegian Air. I’ve heard both of them offer stranded travelers discounted airfare. [Ed. note: For now, anyway.]