Thousands of travellers have been thrown into chaos since WOW Airlines announced yesterday that they were bankrupt and ceasing all operations immediately. Among them is a Canadian traveller who feels "shocked and abandoned" by WOW's sudden shutdown.
The ultra-low-cost carrier revealed to the world yesterday that they were ceasing all operations after failing to find more investors for their company. This included a failed negotiation with Icelandair who was looking to absorb WOW but ultimately decided against it. Now the airline no longer exists, leaving thousands of travellers stranded both figuratively and literally.
Canadian traveller Jessica Sorrentino was all set for an amazing European adventure, due to take off on Sunday, March 31, a trip she had been planning for two months now. She was going to travel from Toronto to Iceland then onto other European countries. Having flown with WOW before she decided to take advantage of the cheaper prices the ultra-low-cost carrier had to offer when she booked two of her flights, especially since part of her trip included Iceland, which is the home of WOW Air.
"I travel for the destination and am comfortable with a budget airline," Sorrentino told Narcity. That comfort quickly changed into chaos though, when a friend told her that WOW had shut down, only three days before she was supposed to fly with them.
What came next for Sorrentino was a whirlwind of emotions, trying to get information from WOW, and figuring out if her trip could still even happen.
"First, I thought, can I afford to still get to Iceland? That was a swift no with prices now being three times more expensive," she told Narcity. That wasn't all she also had to cancel a $2000 four-day tour of Iceland she had booked.
"Thank God I got cancellation insurance, as under a week away... I wouldn't have gotten anything back" Sorrentino said.
With the whole trip now in limbo, Sorrentino turned to WOW Air in hopes of getting some answers and also her money back. As she tells Narcity, it turns out this process was easier said than done.
She says tried contacting WOW on Twitter, via email, and tried calling them as well with no response on any platform. Then she thought to call VISA.
"I was transferred three times, including a dropped call until they directed me to make a dispute," Sorrentino told Narcity. "That was a 1.5-hour wait as they told me their lines were flooded with WOW disputes."
In all that time waiting on the call, she began doing research on what her options and rights were, which she said only made things more confusing. On their website, WOW says "Passengers may also be entitled to compensation from WOW AIR, including in accordance with European regulation on Air Passenger Rights. In case of a bankruptcy, claims should be filed to the administrator/liquidator."
Reading this created more questions for Sorrentino who said, "for the average person such as myself, I immediately thought, how the heck do I file a claim to 'the administrator/liquidator' and who is that?"
Fortunately for Sorrentino, she says that VISA handled making the claim and for now the money has been refunded back into her account, pending the finalization of her claim which may take up to three months.
Despite getting some of her money back already, the stress isn't all gone yet.
"Overall, it took up three hours of my day," Sorrentino said. "I still don't know how I'm getting to Europe and have to change up my trip entirely. WOW was not helpful in the slightest and I'm shocked that they blindsided so many passengers."
She also says that this has been an emotionally taxing experience. "I felt incredibly frustrated and shocked. Travelling and vacations are very precious, expensive, and time-consuming. I felt abandoned by WOW."
Fortunately for Sorrentino, she was not stranded by the sudden shutdown of WOW and she revealed to Narcity that despite all the stress, she feels lucky that it wasn't worse for her.
"I am truly grateful this happened three days before my flight was scheduled to leave...and that I'm still at home and not stranded in another country," Sorrentino said. "It is sad that at the end of the day, truly I feel relieved that my situation was not worse, and that I was not losing more money than I already am."
Sorrentino says she is still determined to get to Europe since she has accommodation and tours booked in other countries but she's not yet sure how she'll get there or when.