WOW Airlines says it sold me flight insurance — so why won’t it refund my canceled flight?

Larry Ayres wishes he had bought travel insurance when he tried to change his flights on WOW Airlines. And now he can’t even go on the trip. But wait … maybe he did buy trip insurance. But if he did, where’s his refund? Our advocates help sort out the confusion.

Question: We booked a trip to Paris on WOW Airlines and asked to include a two-to-three-day stopover in Reykjavik. Then, after we were told Boston was the only flight option, they opened flights from Chicago which is MUCH easier and closer for us [South Dakota] than Boston. WOW’s phone agents didn’t even know where they fly from!

Their phone line is an absolute joke to get to anyone who really cares to help. Online responses are just a runaround. We fly a lot on other airlines, and they are a breeze compared to this experience.

We finally booked through a travel agent so we didn’t lose a connecting land/transatlantic package return to the U.S. The WOW agent never told us we needed insurance in order to make changes to flights.

Can you get us a full refund of $658, or at least a partial refund or a credit for a future flight next year? Our replacement flight cost us $964. — Larry Ayres, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Answer: Sorry to hear about your negative experience with WOW. Given your location in the plains, it was a great idea to begin your journey in Chicago rather than Boston. Unfortunately, WOW did not make it easy for you to make the change.

WOW is based in Iceland and has a growing U.S. presence. Clearly, they should be doing a better job with customer services with domestic travelers. You were having bad results trying to contact the company via its phone line and online help center. We always recommend doing self-advocacy in writing in order to establish a paper trail between you and the company. This method generates documentation that you can use to help settle your case.

Related story:   Is this enough compensation? A partial refund for my dogless flight

One of the things you learned during this exchange with the company was that you had purchased trip interruption coverage from WOW along with your airfares, although you didn’t know it. You also learned that your son required immediate heart surgery, and you decided to cancel your trip altogether.

So this claim turned into a request for a full refund instead of a trip change, and you were pleased to learn that WOW would refund your purchase (minus the insurance premium) provided that you could submit documentation of your son’s medical condition.

You submitted documentation, but you were convinced that your refund request was falling on deaf ears. You received what you considered to be several impersonal responses, possibly form letters. So you contacted our advocates, who asked you for copies of the paper trail between you and WOW. We also directed you to the list of WOW corporate contacts we provide on our website.

Contact with one of WOW’s executives was just what you needed to accelerate the refund process. You soon saw the money posted to your credit card.

This serves as a reminder to readers to be very clear about what they are purchasing when self-booking tickets. Sometimes travelers think they are entitled to a refund when they had not purchased trip interruption coverage. You were lucky in this case.

Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined. Read more of Mark's articles here.

  • Chris Johnson

    Never heard of this airline, but it has a name just asking to be made fun of.

  • Bill___A

    I’ve heard of it, and I won’t be flying it. Ever.

  • Noah Kimmel

    It started in 2012ish (purple planes!) and is a ULCC – think Spirit airlines of transatlantic. They have 17 planes. Like many ULCC’s, in exchange for a good upfront price, you lose the customer service, schedule, on time performance, and typical inclusions. But if you are looking for a great fare, and are ok with this (trip delay and cancellation insurance highly recommended), you can get across the pond for half the price of other carriers

  • Noah Kimmel

    first, I hope the OP’s son is ok from surgery and I am glad there is a happy ending.

    I found the story a little confusing. The OP booked a trip from a travel agent and didn’t know they also purchased insurance. Then they wanted to change departure city from Boston to Chicago for free (not sure why WOW would do that for no charge). Then, they wanted to cancel the flight due to a medical condition and were granted a compassionate exception or maybe use of trip insurance for a refund.

    Anytime an OP says, “We fly a lot on other airlines” and then wants to change a non-refundable ticket and is surprised that it isn’t free probably doesn’t fly all that often. Hopefully they will use a better travel agent next time who can explain what is being purchased (i.e. insurance) and the fare rules (non-refundable).

  • Lindabator

    says they originally booked thru the airlines directly, then later went to a travel agent which makes no sense — an agent cannot make changes to the ticket issued by the airline – frankly sounds like they RARELY travel

  • Chris Johnson

    Spirit of the transatlantic? Ugh! No thank you. Flying Spirit on a 90-minute flight was bad enough, I can’t imagine 5 hours or more. You are right though, I just looked at their website and it looks like they have just about copied everything Spirit does, with the “BigSeat” instead of the “Big Front Seat”. If their flights are anything like the insane asylum of the Spirit flight I was on for 90 minutes, I would not survive an entire trip across the Atlantic. I’ll either pay the extra money for a “real” airline or just stay home.

  • The Original Joe S

    Then they wanted to change departure city from Boston to Chicago for free (not sure why WOW would do that for no charge).

    Because the lying, incompetent toads at the airline failed to tell them that they flew from Chicago in the first place.

  • Noah Kimmel

    “Then, after we were told Boston was the only flight option, they opened flights from Chicago”. They started service to Chicago in July. Not sure when this was booked, but my interpretation is that some time after booking from Boston, the Chicago service was announced and put up for sale and was not available at original booking time.

    Not a “lying, incompetent toad”, but a customer who bought one thing, saw something better, and wants a free change. Should WOW do this? Maybe, new cities tend to be slow to sell and some goodwill would be nice. Do they have to offer a free change to a non-refundable ticket to fly to a totally different market? heck no. I don’t call delta and say, “I bought a ticket for Texas, but I really want to go on your new Cuba flight instead. Can you change it for free?”

  • The Original Joe S

    You may be correct. They opened the city after the ticket was purchased. They also could switch it for the customer. Being a hard-nose will not gain loyalty.

    I had a ticket on a now dead airline from IAD to EWR, and, knowing that they were wrecked ems, checked a week out. Turns out they had changed flights on me without notifying me [even tho the scumbags HAD my contact info]. I called and asked the witch on the phone to change the flight to ensure I’d have enuf time to make the connection in EWR, and she wanted to charge me $100 change fee to fix THEIR SCREW-UP. Same scumbag airline tried to charge me baggage fees on a flight IAD – EWR – TPE – BKK, which was booked with their partner airline. I’d flown this itinerary many times before; this was an extortion attempt. AND, they didn’t let their “partner” into their reservation system. Never flew with those scumbags again. Took el tren to Newark – a most pleasant ride.
    Moral of the story: If you bend over, they will slip it to you……

  • cscasi

    Some people are willing to fly on them or they would not be servicing several cities in the USA. There are those who will fly with a “Spirit” type company to save money. Many are not concerned about the comfort, amenities, etc. So, there is a market for this company and all that goes along with using it.

  • cscasi

    Agree. We would have to have all the facts; including the timeline in order to make some sort of honest judgement about the company.

  • cscasi

    Sound slike you need to a better job of researching the carrier(s) you want to fly on, to ensure things like this do not happen and causing you all the angst.

  • Chris Johnson

    Honestly, it’s not the comfort or amenities I care about that much. I can survive on a relatively short flight. On the outbound portion of the only Spirit flight I took, it was 530 in the morning and I was half asleep. The plane was mostly loaded and ready to go when suddenly at the last minute a family of eight people comes barreling down into the plane, making all the noise you can imagine while they seated themselves, and when many of us stared at them with all the noise they were making, the appointed leader of the group shouted “What the f— are you looking at?” (would any other airline tolerate that?). As the plane took off and was in the air, and the fasten seat belt sign was on, they kept getting up out of their seats and wandering into the aisle, yet the flight attendants always seemed to be looking the other way. It was a flying asylum with the inmates in control. They settled down a little for the rest of the flight but honestly it made for an unpleasant experience. Then on the way back the flight was delayed four hours. Other airlines going to the same city were taking off like normal, so it was clearly not a weather issue (really, a minor issue but the icing on the cake for me to never go back to Spirit).

    It’s not so much the airline itself I have a problem with, it’s the community of people who take it. The cost savings isn’t that great if you have luggage anyway.

  • John McDonald

    Great airline who are keeping the others honest. Without the wows of this world flying would cost a lot more .

    Wow, Spirit etc. Reduce fares dramatically but don’t expect an expert on the end of the phone whenever you feel like calling. Maybe you should have used a real live travel agent in the beginning

  • John McDonald

    So you want Spirit airlines but Singapore Airlines service? Not going to happen. Btw no usa airline is that special. They need to take leaf out of asian airline book

  • Chris Johnson

    Uh, no. Did you read my comment? I said in the first sentence “it’s not the comfort or amenities I care about that much. I can survive on a relatively short flight.” Furthermore I said in an earlier comment that I am willing to pay the extra money to fly on a regular airline (which includes Southwest in my book). It’s the passenger mix that rides on Spirit that makes it less than pleasant.

  • Chris Johnson

    I never mentioned the need to call Spirit. I don’t think I’ve called any airline by phone in over a decade. And what is a “real live travel agent” anyway? I walk by places that say “Travel Agent” on the outside, there is nobody in them.

  • John McDonald

    many travel agents now work from home, as keeps overheads low. One we deal with only has a few telephone lines, as most of her business is done via email(that way everything is in writing) & don’t expect her to be sitting by the phone waiting for calls all hours of the day. Most OTA’s answer the phone in places like India, where they seem to have little clue of what you’re asking for, but they are cheap.

  • Maxwell Smart

    so you want to pay spirit fares, but only sit with company CEO’s, not “Mexicans” or kids. Yeah that’ll work. Pay peanuts fly business class.

  • Maxwell Smart

    maybe he didn’t ask & just said he wanted to fly from Boston. They aren’t mind readers.

  • The Original Joe S

    Maybe the toads didn’t tell him that there’s an airport much closer to him because they are lazy / stupid / indifferent. Maybe they didn’t have the flight at the time he booked his ticket. Maybe if the queen had a beard she’d be the king. Maybe if many people posting on this blog were not negativistic industry toads who automatically jerk to castigate the consumer, we wouldn’t see so much condemnation of the customers…… Maybe if those toads’ firms were highlighted here, we could avoid doing business with toads who don’t care about the customers and wouldn’t do anything to assist them.
    I had a friend who got RICH in travel because he took care of his customers. Word spread. They almost beat his door down to get in.

  • Chris Johnson

    I didn’t say anything about race of people or kids, nor did I say anything about flying with CEOs or business class. Where are people getting this? Also, if you read a comment of mine further down, I specifically said it’s not the comfort or amenities I care about much.

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