WOW air began selling flights online in November, 2011. The sales office was just one telephone in a small office space, and we only offered point-to-point flights to Paris, London, Copenhagen and Berlin in addition to eight summer destinations.
On May 31st, 2012, we carried 90,000 guests using two leased Airbus A320.
WOW air was just a small beginner on the scene with 70 employees including flight crew, but we had big goals and in October 2012 WOW air took over the operation of Iceland Express which had been the leading low-cost carrier in Iceland for 11 years.
An even bigger move was made when WOW air applied for its own Air Operator Certificate in January of 2013. We didn’t make a lot of changes to our operation that year but we were growing and flew over 400,000 guests to Europe using three Airbus A320 aircraft while employing 150 people. We also managed to beat all other airlines when it came to on-time performance in flights to and from Iceland. In October we were given our AOC and could start registering our aircraft – the first one being TF-WOW of course.
In 2014 we stayed on course repeating all the good stuff and learning from the beginner's mistakes. This year we flew c. 490,000 guests to Europe, using three Airbus A320 aircraft and one A319, employed 185 people, and again, managed to have better on-time performance than any other airline flying to and from Iceland. In October we finally got the go-ahead and could start selling flights to the USA. Our first U.S. destinations were Boston and Washington, D.C. The USA flights turned out to be a game changer for WOW air.
Sales to the USA and subsequently to Europe were going great and in February WOW air announced that the company was buying two brand new Airbus A321 to fly our guests over the Atlantic. The aircraft got a WOW registration, TF-MOM and TF-DAD. As a last minute decision we decided to paint TF-MOM purple to match our colours but up until then all our aircraft had been white with a purple WOW logo. In April, TF-MOM flew the inaugural flight to Boston and a month later TF-DAD started our service to D.C. WOW air was definitely getting bigger, adding more and more year-round destinations. That year we flew to 20 cities, mostly in Europe, now operating five Airbus aircraft, three A320s and two A321s as we employed 280 people and carried c. 725,000 guests to and from Iceland, nearly doubling in size from the year before. In the autumn we announced new destinations among which were Canadian cities Toronto and Montréal and we also started offering two big long-haul routes; Los Angeles and San Francisco. For this reason, WOW air signed leases for three Airbus A330-300 wide-body aircraft to be able to fly all the way to California.
2016 was probably the biggest year in WOW history. Our guest numbers doubled as we flew with over 1,600,000 guests to almost 30 destinations in both North-America and Europe. Our capacity grew by 130% as we added 7 new aircraft, four A321 and three A330 bringing the total fleet to 12 aircraft. Still, we managed to keep our load factor close to 90%.
We grew internally as well and employed 720 people. We put more effort into our social media presence than ever before and we also published the WOW app allowing our guests to book, check in and check for info with one simple application on their smart-devices.
This year we received five new aircraft, flew our inaugural flights to six new destinations, and carried 2.8 million guests. We also welcomed our 1,000th employee and flew our inaugural flight to Tel Aviv, Israel, which marked WOW air's first flight to Asia. We bought and leased seven brand new aircraft, directly from the assembly lines at Airbus in France, to carry our guests across oceans and continents in 2018.
In 2018 our annual passenger number grew from 2.8 million to 3.5 million. We premiered our brand new crew outfit (still purple, don‘t worry) and won the CAPA Aviation Awards for low-cost airline of the year. We hired two travel guides to visit several WOW air destinations and document their adventures and we even created our own beer in celebration of the Reykjavik Annual Beer Festival. But 2018 was also a year of change for WOW air. We downsized our fleet to 11 aircraft and cut some routes from our network in order to simplify operations, return to our low-cost roots and focus on ultra cheap flights. Our mission continues to be to enable everybody to fly by offering reasonable prices to all our destinations.