WOW Air Becomes A Global Cargo Airline Based In West Virginia

Filed Under: WOW Air

WOW Air, the Icelandic airline that liquidated last year, will soon become a “worldwide” cargo airline based in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Yep, you ready that right… or something.

Some background on WOW Air

For a bit of background, Iceland-based WOW Air ceased operations in March 2019. Shortly thereafter the rights to the company were purchased, and the airline was supposed to make a comeback. The person behind this is a West Virginia businesswoman, Michele Ballarin, who is otherwise best known for negotiating with pirates and warlords.

She recognized the original WOW Air wasn’t profitable, but had a plan to make changes to make the new airline work. How? By investing in the passenger experience (as ultra low cost carriers do), including:

  • Having a lounge for all passengers
  • Working with a Michelin chef to bring better nutrition on planes
  • Having biometric boarding

Beyond that, the way they’ve gone about relaunching is odd:

Say hello to West Virginia’s new cargo airline

Understandably this isn’t a great time to launch a new airline, but WOW Air has a new plan… again. Yesterday WOW Air announced on Facebook that they’d become a cargo airline based in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Here’s the full announcement:

WOW Worldwide Cargo Hub Launches operations in Martinsburg, West Virginia [MRB]

WOW carGO is proud to announce the commencement of worldwide cargo operations from its US base in the capital region on the East Coast at Martinsburg. The facility is 100,000 SF of hangar and warehouse with 25,000 SF of administrative offices for global dispatch operations.

We are WOW!

Yes WOW Air, you really are “wow.”

Bottom line

Frankly nothing about WOW Air has made sense since the original version of the airline liquidated last year. I can totally appreciate that at this point launching as a cargo airline is probably the best bet, but I’m scratching my head about the base in West Virginia, the 100,000 square foot hangar and warehouse, and the 25,000 square foot administrative offices for “global dispatch operations.”

I get Ballarin’s connection to West Virginia, but…

(Tip of the hat to Jason)

  1. To their credit, every time I read about Wow Air, I always find myself thinking “wow”

  2. Apparently, there is a large Procter & Gamble factory there. Maybe they’re going to ship these high value, perishable products around the world by air: Bounce fabric softener, Pantene, Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essences and Aussie shampoos; Gillette, Old Spice and Olay body washes; and Gain and Joy dish soaps.

  3. The 21st Century BALTIA! I wouldn’t be surprised if WOW Air ends up asking for aid from the United States Government. Akbar Al-Baker and Michelle Baralin are no different, except AAB shows his professionalism by trying out different strategies to grow his airline and Michelle is showing her professionalism by starting different airlines…

    oh wait.

  4. Actually, the location makes a lot of sense. Martinsburg is on Interstate 81, the major North/South “truck” highway on the East Coast. Loading/offloading cargo in Martinsburg is potentially cheaper and easier for truck shippers as opposed to dealing with IAD and other East Coast air cargo facilities.

  5. As someone who spent a few days in WV last month, and drove the entire length of it, I think she’s on to something.

    Maybe they can airfreight all the Kingsford charcoal made in Parsons, WV?
    Just in time for summer BBQ season?

    or… no…

    I bet her plan is:

    1)Get government money for repatriation / humanitarian flight ops
    2) Repatriate all the residents of WV who want to GTFO

    Could be a winner!

  6. It’s okay because obviously freight is the star of the industry now. But if they are cargo, why even bother with using the WOW Air branding? It’s not like any loyalty will transfer into the cargo operations.

  7. Fedex Ground has a large hub a few miles away in Hagerstown, MD. But note the “ground” in the name. Not sure how much air cargo demand there is. Note that BWI and IAD are each a little more than an hour away from there, and are major cargo hubs.

  8. That location was a facility of aircraft manufacturer Swearingen Aircraft, used to be owned by Taiwanese government then Dubai government.
    It is able to be aircraft maintenance workshop or run aviation business.
    Google it before you make funny judgement.

  9. Apparently the yearly rent is $615,550, sounds pretty affordable for a startup airline.
    In case many people don’t know how to search on Google.
    Here you go~~
    94,700 SF of Industrial Space Available in Martinsburg, WV
    Warehouse and office opportunity adjacent to the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport.
    Rental Rate: $6.50 /SF/YR
    Rentable Building Area: 94,700 SF

  10. I’m from a small town in WV not too far from Martinsburg, so I’m hoping this will turn out well, despite how silly the idea seems right now. At last, some plane spotting!

  11. It does seem to me that all these so-called rescue efforts of WOW are a scam. Pity to a once valuable brand.

  12. @ Rico
    In my decades of logistics these products are normally shipped by land. Costs for freight have to consider volume (space) and weight or you go bankrupt.

  13. This sounds suspicious and more like a base of operations for terrorist training and transportation. Let’s make sure we keep an eye on this organization.

  14. @Wade

    Really, terrorists? That is all you can think of?

    If they already have a plane, why even bother transport or train, they got a weapon.

  15. @UA-NYC

    Well, the new owner does have ties to Somali pirates after all. Plus, the location allows for intriguingly convenient proximity to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia. I’ve watched Gemini Man — maybe she’s the next Clay, building a private military attack force.


    I mean @a$$hole! Thanks for posting a link that leads to a malware attack. Hope no one else clicks your link. D!ck!!!!!!!!

  16. @Wyatt

    Don’t post links to said site. Doing so let’s Google’s search algorithm crawl it. Also, having a link from a “reputable” site like OMATT to that plagiarized “news” site let’s Google think that site is more reputable because they are linked. Good catch, though!

  17. This more about West Virginia economic turnaroud and hitting above its weight as a manufacturing center.

    It is also good financial move as they get cheap plans and landing rights. I suspect they will resell the airline to Fedex, UPS or DHL in the years to come.

  18. Interesting theories here about terrorism, money laundering and the like, but there’s another possibility: Ballarin is attempting to start a cargo business from the remnants of a defunct airline. If she succeeds, that means jobs and tax revenue for Martinsburg, WV. Why root against her?

  19. @Peter Semler When did UPS or Fedex ever have trouble getting landing rights? They takeoff and land outside peak hours because its cheaper. They don’t land at crowded airports period, they land at Oakland instead of SFO and Luton instead of LHR.

    And why would they want passenger planes? The market for used planes is going to be approximately 0 for the foreseeable future. They can take over the leases for just about every leased plane in existence right now for no cash outlay whatsoever if they want to expand. In fact, it’s going to be an amazing year for UPS and Fedex precisely because they can expand for virtually nothing.

    I agree with @Michael Milligan, this has money laundering written all over it.

  20. There is no FAA operating certificate on file or application pending for WOW or USAerospace. This has all the looks of another Baltia or USGlobal.

  21. Does this mean I can finally get the money back they ran off with once the company liquidated last year? That’s sure be nice.

  22. The location is absolute genius, why West Virginia? Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport is the longest runway in the state. The civilian side of the airport is virtually empty with occasional small aircraft traffic, for its size the airspace is never congested. Multiple major interstates are very close by to this location with the airport being about a mile off of Interstate 81. This has been bound to happen, many thought a large carrier such as FedEx or UPS would have come to this location by now due to its strategic location and airfield size. I’m quite sure the hangar space and the building were very cheap. Could end up being a gold mine for this entrepreneur.

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