Airport officials surprised by WOW air’s sudden departure announcement

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ST. LOUIS - WOW air is taking off from St. Louis – for good. The budget airline made the announcement late Monday afternoon.

According to St. Louis-Lambert International Airport officials, the decision was unexpected.

“We had talked to them and they said, 'No, we will be loading the schedule here in the near future for the spring and summer,' said airport director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge. "So we were caught a little bit by surprise and I think they are just growing very fast.”

Joe Bauer drove from Springfield to catch a late-night flight to Iceland. But when he didn’t see anyone working the check-in desk, he panicked a little.

“I thought they were out of business already," Bauer said. “I love to travel and work in a travel company so this was a good way to get over there and in a cheap way but now I gotta find just a different method and pay more, which is unfortunate.”

The low budget and St. Louis’s only flight to Europe launched its services back in May.

To get the airline operating here, St. Louis area governmental agencies offered hundreds of thousands of dollars in incentives to help market the new route.

“We will lose the landing fees coming in from the planes and, obviously, we like having the activity and the non-stop," Hamm-Niebruegge said.

Some travelers said that maybe the city needs to do more to invite international services and keep them here for a long time.

“Maybe some tax breaks," said customer Steve Sterne. "There probably could be some things that could help WOW improve their economics flying out of here.”

WOW air representatives had not responded to FOX 2/KPLR 11's request for comment as of late Monday night.

“Having an international flight is important to the city," said Eric Zeece, who was also catching the late-night flight. "It’s important to the business, it’s important to link the city to other parts of the world; that helps increase trade and commerce.”

Hamm-Niebruegge went on to say that despite the setback, officials are continuing their focus and efforts to market other airlines.

“If you take a look at our domestic market in St. Louis, we are very, very strong and that continues to grow," she said. "We made the United announcement and the additional ads that Southwest is putting in the spring, so this has nothing to do with our domestic strength.”

Hamm-Niebruegge said the airport is already in talks with several other international airlines to try and replace WOW air.

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