A new airline company put together by an American heiress is resurrecting bankrupt WOW Air with plans to start flying between Washington’s Dulles International Airport and Reykjavik’s Keflavik International Airport as soon as next month.
US Aerospace Associates LLC has acquired the remaining assets of WOW Air, earmarking $85 million to help with WOW’s cash flow.
Wow Air ceased operations in March due to lack of operating revenues. Until that time, however, WOW Air carried more than a third of all international visitors to Iceland.
The airline will be managed by investors in Iceland and the US and headquartered at Dulles. Only two aircraft will be deployed in the near term but plans to operate up to a dozen planes by the summer of 2020 are on the table.
Michele Ballarin, chairman of US Aerospace Associates LLC spoke at a recent press conference about her confidence in the airline and its solid foundation to fly once again as a successful international conveyance.
“We’re not restarting a brand new airline from ground zero, and the grounding of operations was just a little bit less than six months ago,” she said. “We have solid financial capability, it’s all equity, no debt, there is no debt in the organization. We want to remain debt-free, and as an investment banker I know how important that is to ensure that we can keep this aircraft and this company in the air for many years to come.”
Ballarin, a wealthy heiress and one time party circuit personality from Northern Virginia, has been involved with a number of shadow schemes in the past two decades, including setting up resistance bases in Somalia to fight Wahabi influence in the region and acting as a fiduciary agent in hostage negotiations there. A fan of Ronald Reagan and his “trickle-down” theory of economics, Wow Air would be her first airline company.
“Sixty per cent of the load factor was from the United States. The demand is certainly there. You need another airline here in Iceland to have good fares to choose from. Competition is a good thing, it helps the flying public, it helps jobs,” she added.
Lounges in both hub airports will be created and will be available for all WOW Air passengers, not just premium flyers. “Want to make flying fun again,” she said.
Initiatives using biometric boarding are in place and the airline aims to be able to fully board all passengers in eight minutes.
In addition, with Iceland’s robust fishing industry in motion, Ballarin hopes to see cargo become a more important part of the airline’s revenues.
“We see new movement in cargo and in bringing fresh fish to the tables of the east coast. Air cargo will be an important part of what we do,” she said.
Wow Air was founded in 2012, and made its name selling ultra low-cost fares between Iceland and the US.
“The brand and the logo are solid. Absolutely, it is still going to be same brand,” said Ballarin.
No firm launch date in October has been set.