Wow Air's latest Instagram post before the airline suddenly turned off, captures Kirkjufell's splendor, a postcard-perfect mountain on Iceland's Snaefellsnesh peninsula. But the image quickly became a magnet for sarcastic comments and customer warnings for the origin: It was taken by a stranded passenger unsure of how to get home.
"When your planes are interrupted three weeks before your trip and you don't get a refund," wrote an Instagram user, accompanied by four smiley faces. Another said, "I can think of many words to describe wow airlines and amazing is not one of them." Another posted a giant "F."
Austin Graff, head of talent branding and recruitment at The Washington Post, snatched the photo from Airbnb as he and a friend shared during a hunt for the island nation. He booked the trip after seeing a Facebook post about cheap Wow Air flights to Reykjavik. His round trip from Baltimore to the Icelandic capital cost $ US201 ($ A282) Graff and his companion were leaving Friday.
Graff was first notified to Wow Air disruptions on Wednesday when he saw Twitter talk about interrupted European aircraft. He started tracking social media closely. On Thursday morning, while having breakfast at his hotel, he saw a news report about the airline's breakdown. Fear of the logistical nightmare ahead – stuck in a foreign country with family and work waiting at home – Graff quickly searched Kayak and Vayama travel sites for a resort.
Within minutes he booked a return flight on Iceland Air. It cost $ 375, a hefty premium over its original outlay, but he chalked it up as the cost of security. He was sure he had only guaranteed his return.
He was wrong.
When it was time to check in for the Island Air flight, Graff learned that he and his friend had been put in standby, probably because of many other Wow Air passengers who encrypted to return to America.
Graff again turned to the internet for help, googling "stranded wow air passenger."
He was directed to the Island Air site, where Wow Air passengers could buy special discounted tickets back to the US for $ 100. However, after completing a web form and receiving a reference number to share with an agent in the other the end of a quick line, Graff was instead faced with an automatic telephone recording that referred him back to the website where he started.
"It was a circle without human interaction, says Graff.
Iceland Air's website says Wow Air customers can reach their representatives on Facebook Messenger and Twitter. Graff tried it too. And Instagram for good measure. No answer,
Iceland Air did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since Graff's standby aircraft was not scheduled to depart for another day, he drove to Reykjavik airport on Thursday evening in an attempt to get an answer.
Would he get a confirmed seat or remain in standby limbo? Can he get a "rescue" ticket for $ 100? How to redirect him through Paris or London where there are more flights back to the US?
When Graff arrived at the airport, the Island Air offices were abandoned. "We went there to look for answers, to talk to a human being, but no one was there," he said.
From Friday morning Graff still waited hear if he was going to fly home, but for others like all said he should leave the country, the cost of staying an extra day could be financially burdensome.
"Iceland is a beautiful country to shore in, but it's so expensive," Graff said. .
Like Graff, many of Wow Air's passengers traveled to Iceland at ultra low prices, planning a cheap holiday. But an unscheduled extra night or two in a hotel, along with food and other costs can prove to be 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 best of the situation.
"The father's side of me is a bit stressed – I want to relieve my wife, and my daughter is angry with me that I'm gone," he said. "But the adventure-seeking side of me is excited about this because I can have more to do."
Wow Air gave little warning that he had gone down Thursday – it gave under $ 200 awards from Baltimore, Detroit, New York and Boston that day – when it issued an early morning warning confirming that all flights had been canceled and encouraged ticket holders to look elsewhere to complete their tours.
In part of Wow Air's notice with the heading "What are my rights?" the airline outlined how some passengers may be entitled to compensation for their canceled flights. Those who bought travel insurance or who bought tickets with a credit card offering travel protection may be able to recover costs, Wow Air said, but noted that "such compensation is often limited."
The carrier said that it may be obliged to compensate passengers in accordance with European regulations. "In the event of bankruptcy, the administrator / liquidator's claim must be sought," the company said.
The airline's customer support account on Twitter was requested by request for assistance. A passion with public message excuses Thursday instructed individual customers to send their order information via private, direct messages for help. Customers complained about canceled flights, claimed refunds and requested new orders to continue their travels.
Passengers who booked Wow Air travel using the Hopper app will receive a refund, says Hopper's CEO, Frederic Lalonde, Thursday. The company will also cover the costs of rebooking for stranded passengers. Nearly 1,000 Hopper customers were affected by the cancellations, the company said. It comes out to them via text messages and press releases via the app.
Icelandair had signed an agreement to buy Wow Air last year. Both airlines had struggled in the face of higher oil prices, reduced tourism to Iceland, and competition from rivals who offered direct flights to Europe. But the deal evaporated.
A private equity firm also recently discussed investing in Wow Air, but last year the airline announced that the company had relinquished its talks. In a recent blur, a week ago, the company said it had resumed talks with Icelandair for a possible takeover, the Financial Times reported.
Based on Iceland's capital Reykjavik, Wow Air was founded in 2011 with hiring about 1000 people, according to the company's website. The airline flew 3.5 million passengers last year, serving airports in Europe, the United States, Canada and Israel.
Wow Air's end to the operation follows the decline of another European low-cost airline, Primera Air, which fell in October, less than two months after the launch of 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.
The Washington Post
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