WOW air cancels my flight, leaves me in Paris and keeps my money?

WOW air cancels Mel Bandler’s flight, so she books a flight on a different airline. She wants a refund for the canceled portion of the flight, but WOW refuses. Can our advocates help?

Question:

I bought a round-trip ticket from Newark, N.J., to Paris, via Iceland, on WOW air. The return flight from Charles de Gaulle airport was delayed and then canceled. We were given hotel vouchers and told to contact WOW by phone. I didn’t have a working phone and had to track down a landline. Then I called customer service and was told the cancellation was due to an emergency landing caused by a sick passenger. I was also told to return to the airport the next day and I would be placed on the flight.

I returned to the airport the next day and that flight was delayed. Then I was told there was another sick passenger and the flight was canceled. It seemed highly improbable that there were emergency landings for sick passengers two days in a row. And eventually, the WOW agent admitted there were operational difficulties. The soonest flight WOW could confirm for me was two weeks after my original departure date. This was not an option for me so I bought a last-minute priced ticket home.

Does the EU261 apply?

Later that day, WOW sent an email with a form to fill out for reimbursement. I sent the form and didn’t hear back. Then I contacted WOW again and was told to fill out the form on its website, and that it would respond according to EU 261. I didn’t know what EU 261 was, so I looked it up and realized that I may be entitled to more than just the reimbursement of my flight.

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So I submitted the claim form through WOW’s website for EU 261 compensation for both canceled flights. About a week later WOW denied my claim because the medical emergency was an extraordinary circumstance not covered by EU 261.

I tried contacting WOW by phone and through Twitter, but each time was told my case was closed. I need help because I can’t submit another claim, customer service won’t talk to me and I don’t know who else to contact. Regardless of EU 261, why am I not eligible for reimbursement of $820 for the canceled flight if WOW didn’t get me home? — Mel Bandler, Montclair, NJ.

Answer:

Wow! What a mess!

First, WOW air cancels your flight. Second, you’re told to submit a form for reimbursement, which you do. Third, you’re told to submit a different form for EU 261 compensation, which you also do. Then, after stranding you in Paris without any viable flight home, WOW denies your claim and keeps your money for a flight you never flew on.

Your experience was certainly frustrating. You did everything WOW air told you to do, and you were still stuck with paying for two one-way tickets from Paris to Newark. There is no justification for an airline to keep your money for a canceled flight. You were persistent and tried to contact WOW’s customer service agents by phone and by email. You also could have tried to escalate your complaint to company executives. We list executive contact information for WOW air on our website. You also could have posted your question to our help forums. Our forums, which are staffed by travel industry experts, may have had some helpful suggestions for you.

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The good news

Our advocate Michelle Couch-Friedman contacted WOW on your behalf, and it appeared that the confusion was caused by the EU 261 claim. EU 261 is a regulation that establishes rules for compensation and assistance to passengers for long flight delays or cancellation. You can find answers to FAQ about EU 261 on our website.

The first two responses that WOW gave Friedman denied your request for a refund. But, the third time was a charm and Friedman was able to get WOW to understand that even if you weren’t entitled to EU 261 compensation, you were entitled to a refund for the canceled flight. WOW agreed and refunded your $820. Persistence counts. And you might consider choosing an airline with better customer service.

Diane Perera

Diane and her family love to travel, and they do so as much as they can. Having experienced the downside of travel, and having learned so much from Elliott.org, led Diane to become an advocate and to help fight the good fight. Read more of Diane's articles here.

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