First, it was just a break for the winter.
Then – less than six months after WOW air launched in Cincinnati – the low-cost, no-frills airline announced it is done for good.
WOW air won’t be coming back to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
It is also cancelling service out of St. Louis Lambert and Cleveland Hopkins international airports.
“Unfortunately the routes did not achieve the profit targets set,” WOW said in a statement.
The departure is a blow for CVG, but CEO Candace McGraw said in a statement that the local response to WOW shows the “strong demand for additional international flights from our region.”
“Building additional nonstop international destinations is a top priority for us,” McGraw said. “And, we will continue to work with targeted carriers in that effort.”
WOW air launched in Cincinnati on May 10, offering limited one-way trips to Iceland for $99. CVG spokeswoman Mindy Kershner said in September that WOW had “an incredibly successful launch, serving more than 40,000 passengers over the last several months.”
Kershner said then that she fully expected WOW to return in the spring. She did not immediately respond on Tuesday to questions about how the loss will impact CVG or whether WOW had any kind of contract with the airport.
Local aviation expert Jay Ratliff thinks rising fuel costs are what did in WOW’s tenure with CVG. Jet fuel prices are up more than 39 percent from one year ago, according to the International Air Transport Association.
“The one thing they can’t predict, that no airline can, is future fuel costs,” Ratliff said. “It’s something that’s not only impacting WOW, it’s impacting the entire industry.”
Ratliff said WOW’s departure should not be seen as a reflection on CVG or even on whether the community wants and would support such a carrier.
People were booking flights, Ratliff said – “My hat is off to the community for responding as they did”– but fuel costs “made it very, very difficult.”
CVG at one point was one of the nation’s most expensive airports. But it has since become a hub for low-cost carriers, including Frontier Airlines, Allegiant Air and, more recently, Southwest Airlines.
In fact, just an hour before announcing WOW’s departure on Tuesday, CVG sent out a press release announcing the airport’s fares are at an all-time low. Domestic flights out of CVG – which would not include WOW’s trips to Europe – cost an average of $314, the lowest in the region.
“As our passenger traffic increases, and airline competition increases, airfares go down,” McGraw, the CEO, said in a statement. “CVG passengers are paying on average $240 less per ticket than they were four years ago.”
WOW, based in Iceland, was founded in 2011 and serves 37 destinations in Europe, North America and Asia, according to the company’s website.
After its much-celebrated launch at CVG, however, WOW hit a few bumps.
In June, passengers were irate after a flight from Cincinnati to Iceland was delayed more than 14 hours due to “unforeseen issues” with U.S. Customs and Border Protection paperwork.
Just a few weeks before that, WOW was named the worst airline in the world by Business Insider, dead last out of 72 airlines based on on-time performance, service quality and claim processing.