Cleveland Didn’t Wow Carrier Enough

Wow Air is canceling its route between Iceland and Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

Although the carrier had said earlier it would merely pause its Cleveland service for the winter and return next May, last week it cited disappointing passenger traffic for its latest move.

The low-fare carrier is also ending service to Cincinnati and St. Louis.

The flight cuts to the three cities come amid speculation that Wow is facing financial challenges triggered by rising costs and fierce competition, but CEO Skúli Mogensen told USA Today that the carrier is changing its strategy to focus on service elsewhere that promises better prospects.

“They were not performing as well as many other cities where we think we can add capacity . . . and do even better,” he said of the cities losing service.

The last flight from Cleveland to Reykjavik will depart in the early morning hours of Oct. 26.

Wow Air is one of two Iceland-based airlines that started flying to Cleveland last May, returning service from Cleveland to Europe for the first time since 2009.

Icelandair, the other carrier flying between Cleveland and Iceland, has said it also is taking a winter break but will return in late March.

Wow would not say what percent of its seats from Cleveland it had filled with passengers, but officials at Hopkins Airport believe that the amount of money the carrier made per mile flown was lower than expected, suggesting that fares were too low.

Founded in 2011, Wow offers low fares, but changes fees for such things as baggage, advanced-seat assignments and food.

Industry consultant Robert Mann told The Plain Dealer that the ultra-low-cost long haul model has not proven itself.

Cleveland offered Wow and Icelandair $1 million each in marketing and advertising support to entice them to fly there. Wow spent $55,000 of that money, in support of the 2018 Cleveland Marathon and 2018 North Coast Harbor Ice Fest.

In the meantime, Mogensen said WOW plans to beef up flights from its biggest cities in the U.S. and Canada by next summer. The carrier will continue to serve Detroit and Pittsburgh.

In the USA Today interview, Mogensen did not rule out returning to Cleveland, Cincinnati or St. Louis, and said the carrier will consider serving mid-size North American markets in the future.

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