WOW: WOW Air Will Only Fly To Four US Cities This Summer

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WOW Air has been on a downward spiral lately, and the carrier’s 2019 summer schedule reveals just how far the cuts are going.

What happened to WOW Air

In the second half of last year we saw several European airlines go out of business overnight. While WOW Air is still in business, I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen an airline cut routes and get rid of planes as quickly as they have.

The airline has been losing money since it started operations in 2012 (it started flying to the US in 2015), though I guess other European airlines going out of business put them under increased pressure in terms of making payments to their lenders, and as a result the airline has basically started to fall apart in front of our eyes.

It’s clear that at this point the Icelandic aviation market is saturated, and it seemed like an acquisition was the only way the airline would survive:

The cuts WOW Air has made already

The airline is most definitely cutting like crazy.

WOW Air has already gone from 20 airplanes to 11 airplanes, including returning all of their Airbus A330 aircraft, as well as select Airbus narrowbody aircraft to their leasing companies to improve their financial position and cut their losses.

On top of that, WOW Air has basically taken an axe to their North American route network:

  • First WOW Air canceled flights to Cincinnati, Cleveland, and St. Louis, just months after launching them
  • Then WOW Air canceled flights to Dallas Fort Worth and New York JFK
  • Then WOW Air discontinued flights to Pittsburgh
  • Then WOW Air reduced the number of flights they’d operate to Orlando, going from offering the flight for several months to several weeks
  • Then WOW Air cut their flights to Los Angeles
  • Then WOW Air canceled flights to Chicago

The thing is, many of these route cancelations and suspensions were supposed to be seasonal, and many of us assumed that some more routes would be returning in summer. After all, WOW Air is a highly seasonal airline, and you’d think they’d be able to do pretty well in summer.

Well, WOW Air has now released their summer 2019 schedule, and it’s grim. In the summer of 2019, WOW Air will only fly to four US destinations. This includes:

  • Daily flights to Baltimore
  • Daily flights to Boston
  • Daily flights to Newark
  • 4x weekly flights to Detroit

So the airline will only operate four US routes this summer, while they operated over a dozen US routes last summer. Wow.

I guess their choice of four routes isn’t surprising, perhaps with the exception of Detroit. I’m a bit surprised that if they’re only going to fly to four US cities, Detroit is among them.

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I totally get why they’re cutting routes and going back to the basics, but I guess I’m a bit surprised by how lopsided their route network will be. They’ll fly to almost 20 destinations in Europe, while they’ll only fly to four destinations in the US, and two in Canada.

I guess they’re expecting they’ll carry a lot of people exclusively between European cities and Iceland, because capacity-wise there’s not balance between their North American flights and their European flights.

What WOW Air’s CEO says

USA Today has a few quotes from WOW Air’s CEO. With regards to their investment from Indigo Partners, he says “that’s still very much ongoing, I can’t really say much … other than that we are still working according to plan.” That doesn’t necessarily sound like a sure bet to me.

In regards to their route cuts, he has said that the cuts are “a direct function of reducing the fleet to 11 aircraft and, hence, rationalizing the network to fit that size.”

“I think we grew extremely rapidly, but … we made some strategic mistakes in adding the (Airbus) A330 into our fleet.”

The goal now is to simplify their operations significantly:

“We are getting back to our roots, getting back to the basics. Getting back to building a stronger foundation that will then allow us to grow again as a purebred low-cost airline.”

Bottom line

WOW Air is going to be an interesting airline to watch over the coming weeks and months. On the plus side, I’m happy that they’re still in business, and as much as these cuts are sad, they’re also necessary.

We’ll have to see if the Indigo Partners investment still happens. It doesn’t seem like a sure thing yet, so time will tell.

Are you surprised to see WOW Air reduce their US network to just four routes this summer?

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Comments

  1. As a resident in the DC area, I am glad to see that they are still flying to Baltimore. I flew them to Berlin early last year, and the experience was bare bones, but pleasant and the plane, including the bathrooms, was clean. The only downside was changing planes in Iceland, as the layover was very short (less than an hour) and I had to go through customs because it was my EU port of entry. Plus my plane was late in arriving from Baltimore. But I believe WOW delayed the flight to Berlin, and me as well as several other passengers I wasn’t traveling with managed to make our connection. Overall, a good experience flying with them, and I hope they hang on

  2. I flew WOW from Reykjavik to Orlando within the first 2 weeks after it launched. My flight was pretty empty and Icelandair also flies this route so it’s not surprising that they limited service since I doubt there is so much demand.

  3. I was happy taking WOW. I traveled from Pittsburg to Iceland in September 2018 and then later from Newark in November 2018, thru Iceland to Berlin. Both flights were pretty full. On that second trip the airline emailed a bid offer upgrade in seats, which was a good way of making money for the airline. I paid $70 upgrade but I preferred being in a regular seat. The planes were very clean and roomy. I’d pay more to keep them afloat. I’d plan another last minute trip this year through Iceland to Europe but worry that it may be canceled due to their financial hardship.

  4. @caimy not really. BWI is a hub for southwest, so it’s become something of the low-cost airport for DC. It’s actually equidistant from capitol hill to IAD and BWI if that gives some perspective. (At least BWI has a direct rail connection)

  5. @caimy

    WOW continuing to fly into BWI at Baltimore makes sense from the perspective that BWI serves both the Baltimore area as well as the DC area (and Philly is only 1.5 hours away). There are approx. 2.8 million people residing in the Baltimore metro area and approx. 6.2 million people in the DC area (a total of approx. 9 million people) compared to approx. 4.2 million people in the Detroit metro area, so there are more than twice the number of people living in the Baltimore and DC metro areas than in Detroit’s metro. On top of that, I am pretty sure that there’s more demand for Europeans flying to the DC/Baltimore area than to the Detroit area.

  6. BWI and DTW are both heavily served by Spirit, also an Indigo Partners production, so a partnership there is likely. The other two, BOS and EWR, not so sure.

  7. I have flown WOW about 3 times from BWI. Every time, the plane has been packed, one was summer, the other two times it was winter, so doesn’t seem to matter.

  8. “I think we grew extremely rapidly, but … we made some strategic mistakes in adding the (Airbus) A330 into our fleet.”

    Like, really?… Then there is no ambition whatsoever, besides trying to catch some low-hanging short-range fruit at the margins… Anyways, the sooner they go under the better. Think of all the man-hours time they wasted and the misery they caused for so many people over their short span….

  9. Detroit makes sense. Competition to Europe is slim pickings on direct routes; DL/AF/KL have it on veritable lockdown, and then LH need not really lower fares because of the heavy auto industry and related business markets. Wow is a welcome addition, although I’m not their target audience.

  10. I flew to Iceland last February and like others say the experience was pleasant, the seats had enough room and the bathrooms were clean. The service was also adequate. I’m glad they’re still flying from Baltimore/Washington.I hope they stick around for more budget travel to Europe.

  11. Knowing they returned the newer planes won’t encourage me to use them again … newness if the plane offset other issues like seat covers that were only a few cms thick.

  12. BWI makes sense. It’s a DC-area airport so a huge catchment area, and BWI has been eager to lure more international carriers. I flew Condor to BWI and it was 50 minutes from wheels down to the time I was in my car driving home. They actually called up BWI office staff to help guide people through immigration lines for example. It was super-fast.

    Meanwhile it took 30 minutes just for my bags to arrive at IAD when I came in a few days ago — big pool of European flights all landing at once.

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