WOW Air, the Icelandic LCC, whose primary focus has been to tap passengers across the Atlantic, is in all sorts of trouble perhaps. They have a hub at Reykjavik airport. Earlier this year WOW Air decided to launch Indian operations, adding New Delhi as it’s the first destination in India. They want to get a piece of the lucrative India-USA market. Since then, they have been adjusting schedules, even before launch to Delhi. Now, they are chopping off flights to the USA. At last count, WOW Air drops at least 5 flights in the coming days.
- Daily flights to New York JFK from October 26
- 3x weekly flights to Dallas/Fort Worth from October 26
- 4x weekly flights to Cincinnati from October 26
- 3x weekly flights to Cleveland from October 25
- 3x weekly flight to St. Louis from January 6
New York JFK is considered to be a flagship market. It is important from the Indian connections point of view. But at least WOW Air will continue to serve Newark for the moment.
WOW Air CEO mentioned in an interview that 80% of the passengers who are going to be travelling on their New Delhi flight will be connecting to the USA. With this, Indian passengers are left with a choice of 11 destinations in North America:
- Los Angeles
- New York EWR
- San Francisco
apart from Reykjavik and London Gatwick in Europe.
On a side note, WOW Air is not accepting bookings for their Pittsburgh route from March 29, 2018. They may not have added to the schedule yet, or they may be cancelling the flight, or it will be a seasonal route. With this WOW Air will have extra capacity. WOW Air will announce a new destination next week.
If you look at the list, Chicago, Washington, San Franciso and Toronto is already connected via non-stop flights to New Delhi. All these 11 destinations already have many one-stop options from New Delhi. It is a tough road ahead for WOW Air. WOW Air has many problems right from the start.
- Since their service to New Delhi and also to other cities is not daily, it already limits the connection opportunities.
- While WOW Air may serve 11 destinations but one can only find tickets on specific dates. For example, a quick search on WOW Air’s website shows that one can book flights only on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday to Los Angeles, but from Los Angeles, one can book tickets for travel only on Mondays. In the case of San Francisco, one cannot book tickets from San Francisco to New Delhi. Same with DEL-LAX route for May onwards. Not sure how they are working the connections here.
- Full-service carriers already provide cheap one-stop fares from New Delhi to the USA. Base fares (1 personal item only) on WOW Air is higher than Turkish airlines for New Delhi – Boston route and comparable to Star Alliance members on New Delhi – Chicago.
Chinese Airlines are also offering dirt cheap fares (for me, China=dumping). For example, China Southern is offering an INR 38,000 roundtrip to Los Angeles from New Delhi, that should come with a meal and luggage as well. That meal may not taste very well, but you don’t have to pay for it or buy Butter Chicken on board.
WOW Air is a clear winner when it comes to markets like Detroit, Montreal and Toronto. Flights to Canada are usually expensive and Detroit isn’t connected like others cities are.
WOW Air is in trouble, but so are many other all LCCs across the world. Primera went out of service, and so did Cobalt. There are rumours that Norwegian Air is running out of cash and IAG have tried twice over to buy them out.
I have always been sceptical of the long-haul low-cost model. At the end (with/without add-ons), you pay similar to that of a full-service carrier and still engage in a transactional relationship with the airline. At least one doesn’t have to pay for water on an FSC, which costs USD 3.29 for a 500ml bottle on WOW Air.
WOW Air is betting big on its New Delhi route launch. Will it perform up to their expectations? Will WOW Air be able to make money on this route? We will be watching to find out.