I Can’t Even: WOW Air Relaunching Flights Next Month

Filed Under: WOW Air

A couple of months ago I wrote about how a group of American investors intended to purchase WOW Air’s assets, following the carrier’s collapse in March 2019.

Rather oddly they weren’t even the only party looking to launch a similar airline in Iceland, as some former WOW Air executives had a similar plan to launch an airline this fall.

The American investor behind the purchase of WOW Air’s assets is especially interesting. We’re talking about Michele Ballarin, who is one of the owners of USAerospace. Several weeks ago it was reported that this deal was called off over failure to make payments on time.

Well, I guess they figured that out, and the deal has happened.

Acquisition Of WOW Air Assets Complete

Per a press conference held in Iceland today, Ballarin’s company has acquired WOW Air’s assets.

According to the press conference:

  • Flights will launch next month, in October 2019
  • WOW Air will start with two planes, have four by next summer, and then 10-12 long term; that’s the “profit zone”
  • The first route will be between Washington and Keflavik
  • They will maintain WOW Air’s branding, because they feel it’s a strong brand that hasn’t been tarnished; “people miss flying WOW”
  • They will initially use a US Air Operator’s Certificate, but eventually plan to acquire one in Iceland as well
  • The type of planes to be used haven’t yet been clarified, but they like both Airbus and Boeing planes, so plan to use a mix of them
  • They’ve committed 85 million USD to this venture

What Will Make The New WOW Air Different?

I watched the entire press conference from Ballarin. As I’ve said, I’m on safari all week, so I’ll be the first to admit that my brain might not be working fully. However, some of the stuff she says just confuses the heck out of me. Like this:

I’m also focused exclusively on my desk with bringing better nutrition back onboard aircraft. We want to make flying fun again for the flying public. For those of us who spend a lot of time in the air flying is a challenge because of security requirements to make sure the flying public is safe. But making flying fun again is something that’s going to be important to us not only to enhance the customer’s experience onboard but to be able to bring better nutrition onboard as well. We have a three star Michelin chef who is working very closely with us for the last two years to develop good nutrition onboard options.

What on earth is she even saying? So she’s starting a low cost carrier and is working with a three star Michelin chef to bring better nutrition onboard in order to make flying fun again?

The business model needs to be radically different for it to make sense, but the stuff she’s focused on just seems so minor and silly. For example, she talks about how they will use biometric data to board planes, so that it can be done in eight minutes. That’s nice and all, but lack of biometric boarding isn’t one of the reasons WOW Air failed in the first place.

She also wants to introduce a passenger lounge for everyone, with the following explanation:

I have requested to be able to have a passenger lounge for everybody flying on the aircraft. As I see it, the experience of flying is such that when you have a six hour flight it’s always a bit of a challenge if you come into a busy airport and are standing in a hallway for an hour or two in between flights. So knowing that from the economic model rows seven to the back of the aircraft really do pay for a lounge that is used by a handful of people that is privileged enough to fly in first and business class. We want to bring a lounge experience to everybody who flies onboard WOW. It’s a very innovative thought, but one that I think is long overdue.

Wait, what? What “model” is she looking at that those in “rows seven to the back of the aircraft” pay for lounge access for “a handful of people?” And if you’re a low cost carrier that’s even stranger, no?

And this:

“It’s now about putting the flight deck together and the gals in the back, the incredibly beautiful Icelandic flight attendants and guys who work in the back.”

You can see the full interview here:

Bottom Line

I don’t really understand the world anymore. So we’re going to see an airline launch flights between Washington and Iceland right before that super popular winter transatlantic travel season. They’ll differentiate themselves by offering a lounge for everyone, biometric boarding, Making Flying Fun Again (#MFFA), and having healthy food thanks to a Michelin chef (because no one is focused quite on healthy dining like Michelin chefs!)?

Obviously this company is very serious and they’re doing this. This isn’t like Baltia, or anything. But watching the entire interview above just left me scratching my head.

Comments
  1. Do they have the same ultimate flaw?

    Whenever I considered book them for a cheap one way fare, loads of middle aisle seating was available on economy, the small premium section at the front was completely sold out.

  2. Imagine if it was a guy leading these efforts. The airline would be DOA with the sexist comments at the end that we seem to just be glossing over at this point given how ridiculous everything else in their comeback is.

  3. no offense, but all I can think about is Mr. Al Baker’s words from the IATA Sydney conference.

    “Of course an airline has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position.”

  4. @VML haha was going to say that exactly. And the ones for non business passengers suck.

    This woman is clearly crazy

  5. “the gals in the back, the incredibly beautiful Icelandic flight attendants and guys who work in the back.”

    The GALS? The GUYS?

    As a former flight attendant labor union president, “I Can’t Even” as well!

  6. “As I’ve said, I’m on safari all week, so I’ll be the first to admit that my brain might not be working fully”

    I have to admit, at first my brain thought of the Safari web browser…

  7. Wow! This Ballarin person is very bizarre. She’s hard to google and there is no Wikipedia entry for her. However there are snippets of information about her involvement with arming rebels in Somalia and somewhat inserting herself into deals with the Pentagon and negotiating with pirates over a Ukrainian ship of Russian tanks. I wish her success in running an airline.

    Also an article in Foreign Policy, “Mrs. Ballarin’s War”

  8. She is calling herself Michele Roos­evelt Edwards. Before, in news reports regarding WOW, it was Michele Edwards. For this media event it was Michele Roosevelt Edwards. Don’t know if the “Roosevelt” part is real or not. But certainly truly bizarre and makes no sense at all from a business perspective. Of course I wish her well but I would not purchase a ticket until there was extensive experience with the airline.

  9. What can I say… WOW. This is the most hare brained idea. What made WOW even know was: 1) Cheap fares, 2) Flying from “forgotten “ airports such as STL. Without that… WHY.

  10. also an interesting WaPo article about Ballarin:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/pirates-and-warlords-aside-michele-ballarin-believes-she-can-turn-somalia-around/2013/10/04/117ef754-0102-11e3-9a3e-916de805f65d_story.html

    Short excerpt:

    ““She has an amazing ability to attract very powerful people,” said Esther Herbert, a medical consultant who worked with Ballarin on a similar Somali initiative from 2008 to 2010. “Then it all falls apart.”
    Or, as Geoff Whiting, a retired naval intelligence officer who partnered with Herbert and Ballarin during the same time frame, put it:
    “The problem with Michele is separating fact from fiction. What is real, and what is made up?””

    –> I would guess only a part of that 85 million is real, and there will be more situations like in the summer where promised capital is not arriving.

  11. Reminds me of kids in elementary school who run for student government promising no more homework and candy for lunch.

  12. Ughh, this is such a missed opportunity. She did not explain their competitive advantage at all. So is there other plane going to be used for service to London??

    Demand just between DC and Iceland cannot be high in the winter.

  13. I’ve always maintained all Ryanair needs is Michelin-starred gym food and they’re ready to take on Emirates…

  14. A bit random but I couldn’t get over the bright violet colored eye shadow and lipstick! Is that going to be the uniform for the crew as well? 😉
    Personally, I am dyeing to see this one take off. It will be riot!

  15. I’ve never seen such an intentionally hateful company identity as WOW, and there has never been a company that more deserves to stay dead. Although on the bright side, by bringing it back to life, at least there will be the chance for it to die a second time, which is a start on what it deserves for the way it treated its customers/victims.

    I actually saw an attendant deny an elderly woman water on a return flight because the attendant did not accept cash, only credit cards. I paid for her water, but what kind of company does that? The same kind that routinely traps luggage and passengers for days at a time.

  16. I wish she had just handed me a check for $85 million. The outcome for her and her investors would be no different than their current course, but at least one member of the flying public would be happy.

  17. She sounds exactly like Hillary. Literally and figuratively. Dumb, empty promises and lets spend more money which belongs to someone else.

  18. Totally agree, tony kline.

    Completely opposite of “stable genius”, “never bankrupted a business”, “never took government money” trump…

  19. “They will initially use a US Air Operator’s Certificate, but eventually plan to acquire one in Iceland as well”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but if they only have a US AOC, they wouldn’t be able to schedule any flights from Iceland to EECA nations – all the flights from Keflavik to EECA destinations would have to be “fifth freedom” flights originating in the United States. This makes trying to build any sort of Keflavik hub very cumbersome at best.

  20. @tony kline

    This woman sounds like Hillary to you? Really?

    I’ve noticed this mode of speaking more and more lately, and I wonder if it’s an intentional attempt at copying the rambling nonsense that our president vomits out every day.

  21. Add her to the list of filters I wish I had on my news. Sarah Palin with millions, buying an airline in a foreign country.

    This isn’t what it seems and Ballarin isn’t making the decisions. She’s there to attract attention, starting with ours.

  22. Flew to Iceland for the first time last October on one of those $228 airfares including assigned seats out of EWR. I don’t care if this lady sounds crazy, but if they start offering these flights again for those price points, I’ll gladly fly to Iceland again on WOW.

  23. I don’t mind the reset, the it’s a guaranteed failure. To be fair, I few WOW from LAX to CPH for $69 ow and it was a pleasant experience with managed expectations. Its just not sustainable.

  24. “.. because they feel it’s a strong brand that hasn’t been tarnished; “people miss flying WOW”. WF#?

  25. @ Troy Schwab Did you expect them to come straight out and say “We’re keeping the WOW branding because it costs a lot of money to repaint a bunch of 737s?”

  26. As I’ve said, I’m on safari all week,

    95% of the reason I want to go on safari is to be able to say, “I’m on safari.”

  27. She’s not looking to appeal to the low cost carrier fans. It seems more of a plan to appeal to Instagram travelers.

  28. When I saw the headline I thought “I wonder if they’re going to focus on O&D out of Iceland or low-cost connection traffic between Europe and the US.” Well neither I guess; she’s going to just burn through 75 million dollars.

  29. While you’re on safari, can you please get a big elephant gun and shoot down this idea?
    Kudos to people for finding all the stuff this woman is supposedly involved with.

    When I need a real estate agent in Virginia, I’ll be sure not to call this woman.

  30. Can I get my refund and stranded $ from the fraud they pulled on me on the last fiasco? Any contact numbers?

  31. I would fly on this airline…healthy food, lounge access included, attractive staff and fun to boot….but at what cost?

  32. Given how much the collapse of Wow Air costed to Iceland Economy since the island heavily relies on Tourism, i wonder why Iceland did not bail out Wow Air.
    Now that this woman has managed to revive it ,i guess it will be successful if not profitable at first.
    She is trying to attract travelers with good marketing tools like Michelin star’ chefs food on board etc to fill her aircrafts because it is the only way to divert them from JetBlue,Air France ,Delta etc

  33. I won’t believe she will deliver what she markets unless and until it happens (which who knows if it ever happens).

  34. Very Hillary sounding, in certain circumstances. Like, at a debate, or an interview. Actually sounds more like Biden at one of his small, recent town halls, or AOC on a regular day.

  35. Yes it does appear she’s in the early stages of dementia or something, but I don’t get all the hate and bad wishes?

    I don’t see what the point of all the hate is? If they succeed great. If they don’t, no skin off my backside.

    We all now have another competitive option to get to Europe. I really could care less if she’s a bad orator, says kooky things, or does backward handstands. Her public speaking skills are bad. Barack Obama doesn’t have to run the airline I choose. People choose airlines for lots of different reasons, and how the CEO talks is probably very very low on the list of reasons an airline is chosen.

    All I see here is a way to get to Europe so why is everyone complaining?

  36. This all seems very fishy. 1st the investors agree to buy WOW. Then Trump offers to buy Greenland and is denied. Then the WOW deal is a no-go but heats back up for an Oct launch with flights only to and from Washington? Dulles of all places, not DCA! If I am flying in the next 30-45 days to Greenland on WOW, why are no flights available?

    Again, this all seems very fishy and TRUMPED UP! Something is going on with the American government and this purchase. It is certainly not a private purchase. Just setup to appear so. Watch your back GREENLAND. This woman appears to be a real estate agent from Virginia but has her fingers in international government affairs. CIA? Special ops in plain sight?

    Flying fish cargo? Michelin star chef? Airport lounges for economy passengers? Biometric data scan vs. a ticket in hand? If the airline doesn’t fold in the 1st 6 months, it’s because it is a special project under the US government who is actually funding it for alternative purposes. Again, beware GREENLAND. I don’t know what it is but the TRUMP admin has its eye on your country…and it’s not for fresh fish! Just like everywhere else in the world, is it Oil perhaps??? Be afraid and let’s hope we get this TRUMPKIN voted out so we will all be safe of his antics!

  37. She does not strike me as a very intelligent woman. I’m extremely concerned that this eccentric American is going to embarrass Iceland, given that Wow is perceived as an Icelandic brand. Somebody really needs to do an intervention.

    Also, is she aware that she’ll be responsible for EU261 compensation? I don’t think she is — and she’s going to get a rude awakening if/when Wow is sued for not paying it.

  38. Excellent!
    I’ll do it! I flew with WOW for it’s entirety. I was sad for it’s closure. It came a long way from the inception.

    This is my first comment.

    BRING IT!

  39. Reply to:
    AK says:
    September 7, 2019 at 11:19 am

    WOW air has nothing to do with Greenland. It was an Icelandic low-budget airline. Had very cheap flights between Iceland and over 25 European and North American cities.

  40. Well, regarding the Lounge access to everyone. This is nothing new. Here in Canada, Porter airlines has it and it works fine. Now, they use a very small airport and the Lounge is in a corner of the waiting area, they offer free coffee, tea and sodas, as well as snacks. Pretty decent for being free and the company has been doing very well.

  41. “Flying fish cargo?” Well this is not a bad idea if you remember why Iceland refused to join the European Zone decades ago .They said that most of their exports were Fish exported to the US and not to the EU so they didn’t think it vital for them to join since they did not care about getting zero tariffs between Iceland and the EU.
    One of the reasons why Iceland is the most expensive country in Europe as they only export fish and import all the rest.

  42. Do they plan to refund customers involved in the March debacle? Yes, I’m one of them. Stranded in Reykjavik Airport (literally slept at airport, 25 hours total stranded) TO destination because they thought they were going bankrupt earlier in the week, but resumed flights a day later, THEN bankruptcy mid-week and cancellations of flights and thousands of people searching to book the remaining flights to their respective homes all over the world ensues, and it ends up costing me over $1800 USD to get home ONE WAY on British Air. No refunds from them, not from bank (wasn’t expecting it anyway,) just gone, POOF. And now they have the gull to return and act like their brand actually isn’t tarnished??? Yeah, I’ll surely not hold my breath waiting on that refund, but I’ll do everything I can to help continue to tarnish their brand in the future 🙂 F#ckers.

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