Wow Air: What to do if you're stranded after airline shutdown

What to do if you're stranded by Wow Air
What to do if you're stranded by Wow Air 03:58

Wow Air's sudden shutdown stranded thousands of passengers in North America and Europe. Many travelers were already at the airport when they learned their airline was no longer flying. 

If you're stranded at the airport, The Points Guy founder and CEO Brian Kelly advised calling your credit card company first.

"The very best tip I have for people is your credit card should be able to assist. Certain credit cards give you trip interruption and cancellation insurance," Kelly said Friday on "CBS This Morning." "And that's why it's critical when you buy air fare, use a credit card that offers that. Some that have no annual fees will cover up to $10,000. So you're not only going to get your ticket price back, but they're also going to cover that hotel for five nights. So people who book using the right card can just buy a new ticket out and just reimburse it later on."

Airlines including Icelandair, United and Aer Lingus are also offering "rescue fares." But you might have to wait. 

"The problem with these rescue fares is all the flights out of, especially Reykjavik, are full for the next six days. You've got to pay out of your own pocket. The airline's not paying for anything," Kelly said.

The Icelandic airline is one of at least eight budget airlines in seven months to cease operations. On their website, Wow showcased flights costing as low as $99.99 from Boston to Reykjavik. But it turned out unsustainable.

Kelly likened the situation to startups "worth billions of dollars yet lose money every year."

"They were trying to build critical mass with people, trusting the airline. Everything is about psychology with airlines. And so they were trying to break into a market, take customers away from the main carriers," Kelly said. "The problem is, you know, once your credit runs up in the airline business, you need a lot of cash to run airlines."  

For customers wondering how Wow could let travelers keep flying knowing that they were about to cease operations, Kelly pointed to "a prayer that more funding would come in."

"It was about to. There was actually a U.S. hedge fund that was about to invest, which would have kept things going. It just at the very last minute didn't," he said.

So the lesson for future travelers: Buy your tickets with trip insurance, but not from the airline itself.

"Whenever they make it really easy to tack on at the end, that's not your best policy. Get an independent policy backed by a huge insurer so you have peace of mind. So I would hedge your bets a little bit," Kelly said. "If you're going to go really cheap, make sure you've got the protection."