My flight from Iceland was canceled. So where’s my reimbursement?

When WOW Air cancels Bruce Nelson’s flight, he should have received immediate compensation under European consumer protection rules. So why is he still waiting six months later?

Question: My WOW Air flight from Keflavik, Iceland, to San Francisco was canceled for reasons I still don’t understand. It was to have arrived at SFO at 5:10 p.m. I was rerouted to Los Angeles, then flown to San Francisco on a United Airlines flight, which arrived at 10 p.m. Thus, I arrived at my destination almost five hours late.

I requested compensation from WOW Air for this cancellation and late arrival, per EU regulation 261. I believe the compensation for the late arrival is 600 euros.

I filed my claim with WOW Air six months ago. It remains “open” (no action taken). Several times I’ve sent e-mail to the WOW executives referred to in your column entitled “Wow! It’s hard to get a refund from airline” in the San Francisco Chronicle. They never responded. Can you help? — Bruce Nelson, San Bruno, Calif.

Answer: I feel your pain. I’ve also just suffered through a five-hour flight delay getting home on a budget airline. But you’re luckier than I was. I was flying a domestic U.S. carrier where the rules don’t require airlines to do much about delayed flights. (Well, they did give us free pizza.)

However, as you point out, because you were flying an airline based in an EU member country, your delay was covered by European Parliament regulation 261. That regulation specifies compensation for delays of varying lengths for flights of varying distances. Because your delay was more than four hours, on a flight longer than 3,500 kilometers, you are indeed entitled to the maximum benefit of 600 euros. And six months is way beyond the time limit of seven days airlines are given by the regulation to provide compensation. WOW Air isn’t alone in violating this provision though; it seems most airlines rarely meet this deadline. We have a detailed FAQ section on EU 261 on our advocacy website.

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When your initial claim seemed to be ignored, you followed our standard advice and used the contact information on our advocacy site to reach out to WOW Air executives. And still, despite a series of politely worded reminder emails from you recording the passing weeks and months with no action, the only response you got were form letters with frustratingly cheerful quips like “We do appreciate your patience and will get back as soon as possible!”

And so our advocates reached out on your behalf, and at long last you got a real response.

We sincerely apologize for the delay of your flight. In all honesty the effect of delays can be an unloving product for both passengers and the airline alike. We are well aware that a good reputation for flawless on time performance is highly valuable. Therefore we strive to keep a clean delay record for everyone’s best interest. The reason for delays are most often an unforeseen cause which by all means we try to avoid with all possible precautions and actions that we can take to minimize the effects.

According to the EU regulation no. 261/2004 you´re entitled to 600 euros. We would like to offer you the possibility to choose between the 600 euros or a gift certificate of total 700 euros.**

*The processing time of claims can take up to 4-8 weeks.
** You will receive the gift certificate within 3 business days.

We found it interesting that processing of your claim was still expected to take several more weeks, but they could get you a gift certificate in three days.

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Given your experience with WOW, we weren’t surprised to learn that you opted for cash.

Dale Irvin

Dale Irvin is a semi-retired writer and editor, now living in south Florida after three years roaming around North America in an RV. You can read about those adventures at

  • cscasi

    Some EU 261/2004 requests are handled expeditiously by European airlines and some, it seems, need to be prodded. It was ridiculous for WOW to take so much time to handle Mr. Nelson’s claim. Like has been mentioned in previous answers here, I believe some airlines have poor customer service and or finance departments and many, it seems, might just train the folks handling these claims to delay and delay in hopes customers will give up and go away.
    Glad Chris and company was able to help get this resolved and hopefully, Mr. Nelson has received his payment by now.

  • Bill___A

    I thought he’s supposed to get a refund AND 600 euros. They should have to do it more quickly.

    Good thing I am not the regulator. “Dear WOW Air. Your landing rights have been suspended pending your payments to all affected passengers. Once you have paid them, we will ignore you for a few months and then reinstate your landing rights within 6-8 weeks”

  • Rebecca

    The one thing I really like about EU 261 is that it takes away any sense of the arbitrary for compensation. It provides a reasonable solution, with no wiggle room for determining to what a delayed passenger is “entitled”. I really wish similar legislation could be enacted in the US, but I suspect the airline lobby would spend hundreds of millions to prevent that.

  • Annie M

    Who paid for his United ticket?

    It looks like Wow Airlines has an awful lot of problems based on the complaints here from folks.

  • Michael__K

    “because you were flying an airline based in an EU member country, your delay was covered by European Parliament regulation 261”

    To clarify, some non-EU member countries which are part of either the European Economic Area or the European Free Trade Area — specifically Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland — have also adopted EC Regulation 261 in accordance with their integration into the single common market.

    So any flight operated by any airline departing from an airport within Iceland (or Norway or Switzerland) is bound by EC Regulation 261.

  • michael anthony

    Both your comment and Rebecca’s, right below about wishing US had this, are spot on. Trouble seems to be, is the difficulty in obtaining refunds timely, which im sure would happen here too. I can’t remember anytime that any EU carrier has been penalized for slow paying. Unless they put actual teeth in the law, and enforce it, some carriers will play the waiting game.

  • joycexyz

    The ridiculous and meaningless blather from so many companies about how they value their customers, are committed to good service, etc., is particularly galling when they obviously are not doing the right thing. Actions speak louder than words.
    BTW, does the EU regulation have no teeth? Is there no recourse?

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