Canadian couple among stranded passengers after Icelandic budget airline WOW Air folds

In 2015, WOW Air began offering deals to fly from Montreal or Toronto to Iceland for $99 one way, and to other European destinations for $149. (Martin Trainor/CBC)
An Ottawa couple currently in Iceland says it’s going to cost them an extra $2,000 to get back home after the airline they booked flights with abruptly ceased operations Thursday.

In a statement on WOW Air’s website, the Icelandic budget airline said all its flights have been cancelled, stranding thousands of passengers.

The airline encouraged customers who had paid for their ticket with a credit card to check whether the credit card company would refund the price of their ticket, and directed passengers to other airlines to try to find alternative routes to their destinations.

WOW Air had about 11 planes in operation when the airline folded. (Scott Galley/CBC)

Fay O’Brien, 64, booked the trip with WOW Air in December as a Christmas/birthday present for Patrick O’Brien, 70.

They had no complaints with their overnight, no-frills flight to Iceland on March 22, and were set to return on March 29.

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Fay O’Brien had been waiting for an email from WOW Air offering to check in online ahead of their departure when her Airbnb host knocked on the door Thursday morning to tell them the airline had shut down.

The couple received no notification directly from the airline.

“You sort of have to go with the roll. We’re fortunate that we are both retired, so we don’t have to be back on any special date, and obviously we’re financially stable enough to not worry about the costs of getting home and booking another flight,” Fay O’Brien said by phone from Iceland later Thursday.

“I really feel for those that are not in that situation,” she said. “It must be a nightmare.”

The couple called a travel agent who managed to book them another flight to Ottawa the same day as their original flight, but with more connections requiring an overnight stay at a hotel in the U.S.

“In an ideal world … I wish there was some kind of government control over airlines where they could say, ‘You have to take these people home. You don’t have to accept any more new reservations, but you’ve got to get these people home,” Fay O’Brien said.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Report saying airline merger would jack up prices in Arctic Canada ‘ignorant’ of northern realities, say Inuit orgs, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: EU Boeing aircraft ban affects Norwegian Airlines flights in Helsinki, Yle News

Norway: Longer runway for bigger planes in Kirkenes, northern Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian regional airline cancels only direct Murmansk-Oslo link, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedish regional airline Nextjet files for bankruptcy, cancels all flights, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska Airlines adds restrictions on emotional support animals, Alaska Public Media

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