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4 days ago, me and a couple of friends went and booked a flight to Iceland and back for in the summer holidays. The price of the tickets all together is almost €2500, I payed this for everyone using a Maestro debit card.

This morning, I woke up with the horrible news that WOW air has ceased operation and has cancelled all their flights. Since we are a group of students, not getting our money back would mean that the vacation has to be cancelled.

I am having trouble understanding what I can do to try and get my money back as WOW air fails to communicate and has blocked all customer service. Is there anything I can do to get a refund? If it matters: I am a Dutch citizen.

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    It does not look good for you. In other words you have just lost your money. May be you get some money back which all depends on bankruptcy proceeding. This is why there is hardly any insurance which covers such stuff. – N Randhawa Mar 28 at 18:16
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    @NRandhawa Not sure about Europe, but virtually any U.S. credit card would cover this. Just do a chargeback and that's it. Some also have insurance that explicitly cover other costs that may be associated with this sort of situation. This is why you should not book flights (or rental cars, hotels, cruises, or really anything) on a debit card. In theory, Wow customers may also be eligible for some amount of EU261 compensation, but good luck getting that from a bankrupt airline. – reirab Mar 28 at 21:31
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    @reirab OP said they used a debit card so even if European credit card allow chargeback this doesn’t help here. – Konrad Rudolph Mar 29 at 9:40
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    @blankip everyone in my country uses a debit card, there is no need to use a credit card here at all. Besides, i'm a student - I don't satisfy the minimum salary to be able to get most credit cards, and if I do, I could never have spent 2500€ using it (cause its capped). – Thomas W Mar 30 at 18:11
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    @blankip: I guess you are from the USA, a country where it makes sense to use credit cards because they offer discounts, better protection than other methods, and give a credit card score that you need for certain financial products. In many other countries, credit cards are more expensive, more difficult to obtain, are less secure than other methods of payment, and the concept 'credit card score' does not exist. – Pakk Mar 31 at 12:36
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Do not assume your money is lost, contact your payment card issuer at once.

Regardless of debit vs credit, you should always contact the bank and let them tell you if it is possible to get your money back through them. They're in a better position to know because there are a lot of specific details and local regulations.

My answer from this point on is based on the fact you paid with a Maestro card: These things often depend on country-specific regulation, but it appears Maestro does allow chargebacks (refunds) for failed travel providers. Their chargeback guide states on Page 357

Intra-European Message Reason Code 4855—Goods or Services Not Provided

Failed Travel Merchant—Intra-EEA and Domestic European Transactions Only

Chargeback Conditions. For Intra-EEA and domestic European Transactions, when the Cardholder contacted the Issuer claiming a travel service has not, or will not, be provided, and when the merchant is seeking protection from creditors, insolvent, bankrupt or in liquidation, at least one of the following conditions must be met:

  1. The travel service was covered by a bonding authority or similar scheme according to local law, and one of the following:

    – The Cardholder (or traveler) requested reimbursement from the bonding authority or similar scheme and did not receive it, or the claim was declined.

    – For Swedish Domestic Transactions: no additional requirement. The Cardholder (or traveler) is not obligated to request reimbursement from a bonding authority or similar scheme prior to the Issuer raising a chargeback.

    The Cardholder (or traveler) does not need to request reimbursement from the bonding authority or similar scheme if the Merchant, bonding authority or similar scheme publicly states that the bond is insufficient prior to the chargeback.

  2. The travel service was not covered by a bonding authority or similar scheme according to local law, or neither the Issuer nor Cardholder after reasonable effort can determine whether the travel service was covered by a bonding authority or similar scheme according to local law.

Basically, it says you should claim from any applicable protection scheme first, but if it is not covered, a chargeback is possible.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Mar 30 at 6:46
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You may lose your money, or some of it, if the company goes bankrupt, which seems likely. According to the Guardian, the airline has suggested that credit card customers check with their card issuers to see if a refund is possible, and that package holiday customers may be protected by the package holiday directive. (Neither of these seems to apply to you since a debit card typically provides less protection than a credit card, though this may be different in different countries.) Otherwise, your only recourse is likely to be to file a claim with the bankruptcy administrator or liquidator.

If it comes down to that, the company's assets will be liquidated and the resulting cash will be used to pay off its liabilities. Since the liabilities may exceed the assets, you are unlikely to receive all of your money. Many assets will have been bought with loans (such as airplanes), and they will be used to satisfy the lenders. Only if the asset is worth more than the debts it secures will any additional value be used to pay other debts.

Update: the Guardian article appears largely to have been based on the company's own statement, reproduced here in full. The linked page may change, so it is a good idea to visit it directly, as well as to visit the links at the bottom of the notice, to look for new information.

TRAVEL ALERT

End of Operation of WOW AIR

Information for WOW AIR passengers

WOW AIR has ceased operation. All WOW AIR flights have been cancelled.

How will I reach my destination?

Passengers are advised to check available flights with other airlines.

Some airlines may offer flights at a reduced rate, so-called rescue fares, in light of the circumstances. Information on those airlines will be published, when it becomes available.

What are my rights?

Passengers whose ticket was paid with a credit card are advised to contact their credit card company to check whether a refund of the ticket cost will be issued. Passengers who bought their ticket from a European travel agent (within the European Economic Area) as a part of a package tour (a package which includes flights and accommodation or other services) are protected by the Package Travel Directive. Those passengers are advised to contact their travel agent to arrange an alternative flight.

Passengers who may have bought travel protection, or those passengers whose credit card terms may include such protection, may be entitled to claim compensation and assistance due to delays or travel disruption. However, such compensation is often limited.

Passengers may also be entitled to compensation from WOW AIR, including in accordance with European regulation on Air Passenger Rights. In case of a bankruptcy, claims should be filed to the administrator / liquidator.

Where can I get up-to-date information?

This announcement will be published and continuously updated on the following websites:

General information about passenger rights can be found at www.icetra.is

Information to passengers .pdf

Upplýsingar til farþega .pdf

28.03.2019

In the last case, you probably won't see any money for several months or a few years.

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    Thanks, is there a way I can be informed once a bankruptcy administrator or liquidator has been appointed? – Thomas W Mar 28 at 18:29
  • @ThomasW I think the best thing will be to follow the news media and the company website, and maybe also look for any Icelandic government sites, for example the aviation regulator or the corporate or financial regulator, that might have relevant news. Even though you used a debit card, I would look more closely at the possibility of disputing the charge if I were you. – phoog Mar 28 at 18:42
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    Several airlines have started resuce plans e.g. wizz air, icelandair are offering rescue fares. Follow the news media and other airline sites for resuce fares. – N Randhawa Mar 28 at 18:49
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    Thanks @NRandhawa, but I am not stuck in Europe or Iceland, I have booked a summer holiday. The rescue fares are only for passengers that are stuck – Thomas W Mar 28 at 19:00
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    @Harper OP wrote in their original already that they used a debit card, not a credit card. There's no such thing as chargebacks on Dutch debit cards, and the payment you make is essentially a glorified bank transfer, so their money would most probably be already in WOW's account. Whether their status as a creditor is high-priority or not I don't know, but their sole option is to file as a creditor with the liquidator and hope for the best. – Adriaan Mar 29 at 12:30
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TL;DR your sole option is to register as a creditor of WOW air with the curator/liquidator of the bankruptcy. Unless you bought additional insurance on your ticket


First off, if you have an (ongoing-) travel insurance ((doorlopende-) reisverzekering), is to call your insurer and ask what they provide for bankruptcy of a travel agent. Usually your bank is also the travel insurance provider in the Netherlands. I'm not optimistic; this SkyScanner article suggests that bankruptcy is not covered in travel insurance, but at least they'll be more knowledgeable on the juridical side of things.

Seeing you paid with a Dutch debit card, which is entirely reasonable when you're Dutch, and have not taken out any additional travel protection insurance (at least, that's what I assume, since you didn't mention it), there's only one way forward as far as I can see: make sure you are a registered creditor when the bankruptcy files (see e.g. this news article). phoog's answer has a collection of official links where the legal curator should be annouced.

You will most likely not be the only Dutch citizen having this problem, so probably someone will create a sort of rights-foundation where you can subscribe, and they will collectively try to get their money back. It means you loose some percentage to advocacy costs, but at least you don't have to go through the legal procedure yourself.

So keep an eye out for the bankruptcy declaration and who the curator is, and contact them, as well as any rights-foundation (belangenbehartigingsstichting in Dutch) which will probably be set up for all duped clients. You might see some of your money back, depending on how bad the financial situation was, but it will take years most likely.


As far as I can see the standard EU safeguard for flight cancellations, lost luggage, delays etc does not hold for bankruptcies. You could contact them of course, although I don't expect you to get a refund through there.

The usual 2 week term for sending back online-bought goods does not hold for travel tickets neither alas.


Why most of the other answers are wrong: You have a Dutch debit card. What the international community here understands from the debit card principle is, as I gather it, some kind of prepaid or Credit Card-Light. Sadly, this is not the case. All the cashback mentions in other answers are, however hopeful, wrong. They simply do not work with a Dutch card. What you did was most likely an iDeal(1) payment (or an actual PIN payment with your card on Schiphol), which transfers your money from your account to the company, in this case WOW air, directly. There's no such thing as a payment company in between, so all the cashback tales you're thrown as a bone here simply do not work. Sorry, but your sole solace is trying to register as a creditor. Please, be my guest, try to contact your bank to get a cashback, but don't be surprised when they look at you weird. It's just not a thing with the Dutch debit card. As gerrit put it:

Terminology note: American "debit cards" are not Dutch "debit cards". In US, CA, UK, "debit cards" typically have a 16-digit number and CVV code, a magnetic stripe, and can be used for card-not-present payments. Dutch or German "debit cards" have no 16 digit number or CVV code, and increasingly often no magnetic stripe either. In US/CA this is often called an "ATM card".

Sorry, but the other answers are from an Anglo-Saxon point of view on the debit card which simply is not true for the Dutch case.

(1) From the linked page:

(...) this payment method allows customers to buy on the Internet using direct online transfers from their bank account.

Bank authorizes transaction in real-time, deducting the amount directly from the consumer's account (if there is not enough balance, the transaction will be refused)

Merchant received real-time confirmation of the payment by the bank

There is no chargeback right however, which can be considered a disadvantage for the consumer using this payment method.

I.e. your money is there basically the moment you confirm your iDeal payment, and no chargebacks are to be gotten.

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    The differences listed between American debit cards and European ones are sheer fantasy, it all depends on the bank and not the country. But debit cards all have in common that you're taking money directly out of your bank account, very much as if you were paying cash. So sadly, the bulk of this answer is right in terms of how unlikely a refund would be. – user61942 Mar 30 at 1:26
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    "which transfers your money from your account to the company, in this case WOW air, directly. There's no such thing as a payment company in between" Unless the money was delivered as an envelope full of cash or something, the money went to an acquiring bank, not to WOW directly, and there has to be some sort of system for handling the transfer. – Acccumulation Mar 30 at 2:07
  • Chargebacks do exist. I don't care what country's bank issued it, you used a Maestro card, not silver coins. – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 30 at 20:19
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit not on Dutch iDeal/PIN payments made with a debit card. The sole chargeback you can do here is if you authorised a company/charity/whatever to make deductions from your account (automated collection) you can charge back that within 14 days of it being deducted from your account. For payments you made yourself there is no such thing as a chargeback here, not even for maestro cards. – Adriaan Mar 30 at 21:52
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    @Adriaan so most Dutch citizens don't have access to a Visa/Mastercard debit card? That's fascinating – JonathanReez Apr 1 at 20:04
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Contact your credit card issuer and dispute the charge, that is to say, request a chargeback. While the investigation runs, that part of your bill will be considered "disputed" and you will not have to pay it. You are extremely likely to be fully refunded.

Oh wait, it's a debit card??? Okay, same deal. Except while the investigation runs, the money will be absent from your account. You are significantly less likely to be fully refunded. The "investigation" could run a month or two.

....and you just discovered one of the biggest vulnerabilities of debit cards as opposed to credit cards.

Normally you should talk to the merchant before doing a chargeback. But you seriously tried... So good enough!

All that said, there's a chance even a chargeback that worked is not a successful dodge. A chargeback only reverses the payment, not the liability. There's tale of some too-clever bankruptcy trustee going after customers who had successful chargebacks, claiming they misused chargeback to make themselves a higher priority creditor than they were, and get paid out of turn. I have my doubts that would stand up in court, but that trustee tried it! A lot of dumb people probably paid him rather than fight.

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    but still likely, to be fully refunded what are you basing this on and who will be the one refunding? If the airline declares bankruptcy and there are many creditors then it's unlikely you can be paid back from what's left of the airline (based on the idea that there's less money than the total amount that owed to creditors). – JJJ Mar 29 at 0:48
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    @jjj having been through it. OP is a customer, he didn't sell them fuel. Not all creditors have equal priority, customers are the highest. Also, Mastercard (Maestro) has business analysts who do research, they were well aware of WOW's troubles, and very likely withheld their payments to cover expected chargebacks such as OP's. Credit cards do that. – Harper Mar 29 at 0:52
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    I would like to see some sources to support that. I don't know which jurisdictions apply but here in Western Europe we see that authorities (e.g. taxes) and companies (mostly suppliers) are the first to be compensated and there's almost never anything left for customers (if there were, they wouldn't have declared bankruptcy). Those experiences are mostly with retailers, I'd like to see some sources pointing to priority and debitcard payment providers withholding payments as you claim in your comment. – JJJ Mar 29 at 0:57
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    @JJJ Chargebacks aren't a claim against the airline, but rather the airline's card processing bank (acquirer). In Visa and Mastercard schemes, the customer's bank (issuer) receives money back from the acquirer as a bank-to-bank transaction, they never deal with the merchant themselves. The acquirer assumes the risk of bankruptcy of their merchant. – user71659 Mar 29 at 1:24
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    @JJJ my research also says you have a good point about priorities. Edited. But also what user71659 says, particularly it is the acquirer's job to know their customer and withhold back enough money to cover foreseeable chargebacks, and when they smell blood in the water, that withholding can go to 100% lickety split. This can greatly add to the death spiral for a struggling business, ask anyone with a Square account. – Harper Mar 29 at 1:33
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WOW air has provided new information on reclaiming your money through the liquidator yesterday:

Passengers may also be entitled to compensation from WOW AIR, including in accordance with European regulation on Air Passenger Rights. Since WOW Air has been declared bankruptcy, claims can be filed to the administrator / liquidator.

In that case it is emphasized that passengers file a formal claim to one of the liquidators, Sveinn Andri Sveinsson sas@reykjaviklawyers.com. If you want your claim to be registered on the Registration of claims, you must use a form in accordance with the Icelandic bankruptcy law no 21/1991. Below is a form that can be used. The deadline to file a formal claim is August 3rd 2019. No information about possible recovery will be available until firstly after the creditors meeting in august 16th 2019.

The mentioned form can be found on the website (https://wowair.com/).

Good luck!

  • Thanks! I found this somewhere a month ago already so I hope i'm in front of the customer line :) – Thomas W May 1 at 10:12
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In the Netherlands there is a garantiefonds for when travel organisations go bankrupt. It is sort of an insurance: if you did not pay the premium you cannot claim the benefits. In the old days you'd always go through a travel agency and be required to pay the fee. Booking directly through the internet saves you the fee most of the time, but costs you the fare occasionally.

Do you have travel insurance? Ask them too.

  • Do you have a link for this garantiefonds? All I could find (see my answer ) was the EU one, and that doesn't hold for bankruptcies. The travel insurance doesn't cover bankruptcies either, at least those of the fours major Dutch banks. – Adriaan Apr 1 at 19:31
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The exact specifics of payment do matter here. Even with debit cars there is legal protection in the EU for you. As far as I know, any debit card transaction without entering a PIN number (which would be online payments, or in-store payments with signature rather than PIN number) is effectively just a convenient way of handing over your IBAN, so that the other party can do a bank withdrawal.

Bank withdrawals can be veto'ed for at least 2 weeks. Usually just a matter of two clicks in your online bank account.

  • Interesting; I always thought an iDeal payment (online banking) was an authorised bank transfer, but made easy for online purchases. If it indeed would be an authorisation for a one-time withdrawal by the company it should be possible to reclaim. I'd like to see a reference here though, as this is not how I understand iDeal payments. – Adriaan Apr 1 at 19:34
  • Wikipedia on iDeal seems to refute this view, and instead says its a direct bank transfer (which I'd always thought). If they paid at the counter using their card they'd have to have entered their PIN, unless they manually set their PINless payment amount from the standard €20 to €2500, which I highly doubt. – Adriaan Apr 1 at 19:43

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