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Wow Air Is Barely Afloat but Still Launching a New Route to India

Dec. 06, 2018
3 min read
Wow Air Is Barely Afloat but Still Launching a New Route to India
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Icelandic ultra-low-cost carrier Wow Air is on the brink of shutdown due to its poor financial outlook. It may or may not be saved by a US investor, and it's had to return leased planes to their owners. But that isn't stopping the faltering airline from trudging through a new route launch it has been planning for months. [Update, 3/28/2019: WOW Air has ceased operations. Find our ongoing coverage of WOW Air's collapse, and what affected passengers can do about it, here.]

In what seems to be a Hail Mary of sorts to persuade passengers that everything is fine, Wow Air on Wednesday launched service to Delhi (DEL) from several US cities via Reykjavik (KEF). Even more shocking, the struggling budget carrier is launching a promotional airfare of just $199 for a one-way flight for travel on the route in Jan. 2019.

Flyers in seven US cities can book the promotional fares to DEL, including: Chicago (ORD), Boston (BOS), Washington DC (BWI), New York (EWR), Detroit (DTW), Los Angeles (LAX) and Pittsburgh (PIT).

"Our new route from Iceland to New Delhi will give travelers from all over North America and Europe the opportunity to visit an incredible country,” Wow Air CEO Skúli Mogensen said in a statement on Thursday. "We are excited to expand WOW Air's offerings and bring low fare international flight service to India."

Although the plan to launch the new route and the $199 fares were announced back in May, it is a jarring shift in tone from the recent spate of bad news coming out of the purple-liveried airline's Reykjavik headquarters. For starters, Wow has been dropping routes left and right, ending service from New York JFK, Dallas, St. Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Tel Aviv due to low passenger demand.

National flag carrier Icelandair offered to buy out Wow, then reneged at the eleventh hour because the ultra-low-cost carrier could not meet financial stipulations set in the preliminary purchase agreement.

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Then the carrier sold off 20% of its fleet, returning four leased Airbus planes back to their owners.

On the plus side, Wow Air did manage to find another potential investor willing to swoop in and save it from imminent demise. Indigo Partners, the private equity firm that owns budget airline Frontier, said last week it plans to buy a stake in the bare bones airline.

The two aviation groups said they have reached a preliminary purchase agreement, but it remains to be seen whether the airline, on shaky financial footing exacerbated by the high cost of jet fuel, will pass Indigo Partners’ due diligence. But with the launch of the New Delhi route, Wow is putting on a confident face.

Though the $199 price might be tempting, it might be a risky bet to book with Wow at the moment -- at least until the Indigo Partners agreement becomes finalized. That could very well turn the dire situation around. In the past, Indigo invested in fellow ULCC Spirit when it was struggling, and is widely credited with turning around the airline. Spirit is now one of the most profitable airlines in the US, posting a third-quarter net income of $97.5 million in 2018.

And if you are going to book this route with Wow, be sure to book with a card that has good trip cancellation policies or other travel benefits.

Featured image by Photo by WOW Air.

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