On March 28, 2019, after filing for bankruptcy, discount airline WOW Air cancelled all operations and grounded flights leaving thousands of Canadian travellers stranded across Europe and North America. Without other options, Canadian travellers who booked return flights with WOW Air had to pay out of pocket to return home with no compensation from the company.
Founded in 2011, WOW Air offered discounted flights between North America and Europe for as low as $99 before fees and taxes. The airline flew around 3.5 million people between North America and Europe as of 2017. When the company started expanding and adding new destinations, they didn’t increase the cost per passenger to cover their expenses. After two failed merger negotiations with Icelandair and Indigo Partners and spending months trying to find an investment, bailout or buyer, WOW Air filed for bankruptcy.
According to CBC, the airline advised travellers who purchased their tickets using a credit card to contact their credit card company for a refund. Icelandair offered a discounted price on any of their flights where available to stranded travellers. Canadian Erin McBurney told CBC News she was with friends trying to get home when she discovered her tickets were no longer valid, having to pay $1,300 Canadian for seats on Polish airline, Lot. In a letter to employees, WOW founder Skuli Mogensen expresses his disappointment and regret for not doing something sooner. Gabor Lukas, a passenger rights activist in Halifax, states that there are laws in Canada that are not enforced to protect consumers in this kind of situation. “The purpose of regulation is to deal with situations before they go bankrupt to protect the public from such economic harm,” Lukas said.