WOW Air relaunch will now start with cargo, not passengers

Oct 30, 2019

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WOW Air will relaunch by carrying cargo. Passengers will have to wait.

That’s the latest twist on the plan to revive the Icelandic budget carrier WOW, whose future as a passenger airline appears increasingly uncertain.

WOW — which had been known for its purple planes and rock-bottom fares across the Atlantic — abruptly went out of business in March as financial pressures mounted. The company’s demise followed several years of breakneck growth that then morphed into sudden retreat before operations were halted altogether.

Then along came Michele Ballarin, an eccentric U.S. businesswoman that The Washington Post once described as “a trusted confidante of Somali pirates and warlords”. In September, Ballarin and her Virginia-based USAerospace group acquired WOW’s brand and remaining assets, which did not include any planes.

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Initially Ballarin pledged that WOW would return to passenger service by mid-October with nonstop flights between Washington Dulles and the Keflavik Airport near Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik. Then, that projected launch slid to December.

Now, Icelandic media reports WOW still plans to begin flying between Washington and Reykjavik — but without passengers. Instead, WOW’s first flights will focus on freight transport because putting together passenger service proved “more time-consuming than anticipated”, according to The Reykjavik Grapevine, citing the Icelandic-language news site RÚV.

It still sounds as though Ballarin’s group plans passenger service, according to the media reports, but it’s unclear when that might happen. It also remained unclear what aircraft a relaunched WOW might use, whether for cargo or passenger service.

When Ballarin initially announced plans to revive WOW in September, she said she thought the company could be flying passengers within a matter of weeks.

She also talked about passenger frills that made it sound like she intended to relaunch WOW more as a full-service carrier instead of the no-frills airline that originally failed.

Ballarin also said she didn’t think WOW’s previous struggles would hurt its image.

“I don’t the brand is damaged at all”, she said in a September press conference. “I think people miss the ability to go out to Keflavik and get on a purple airplane and fly somewhere”.

For now, stay tuned …

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