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straight outta reykjavik

Meet the "accidental airline owner" planning to fly us to America for next to nothing*

*Relatively speaking. And via Reykjavik, it should be added.

WOW AIR’S ANNOUNCEMENT of a new transatlantic service from Dublin took many people by surprise on Thursday.

The little known low-cost carrier plans to begin its new routes from October, and is planning an introductory one-way rate of just €149, with a stopover in Reykjavik on each Boston- or Washington-bound flight.

It comes just a few weeks after the company’s announcement of its new Ireland-Iceland service, which will operate year-round from Dublin, from this June.

46-year-old Skúli Mogensen is the man at the helm of the no-frills carrier.

He has (as I’m sure we can all agree) an impressively Icelandic-sounding name.

But just who is he?

More to the point, why haven’t we heard of his airline before?

“You’re completely excused for not having heard about us,” the former tech CEO tells us, down the phone (admittedly, we hadn’t put the question to him quite that bluntly).

We are obviously relatively new, but we flew our one millionth passenger last December. Our first flight was in May 2012, between Iceland and Paris.

By this summer, the airline will be flying to 20 destinations — including its first US airports.

Many of the main European countries are already in our network too.


‘Thor’ and other stories

Mogensen describes himself as an “accidental” airline executive. Alongside his CEO role, he’s also the sole owner of the company. Before that, he spent two decades as an entrepreneur and investor, mostly in the tech, media and telecoms sectors.

He studied philosophy at the University of Iceland, and co-founded mobile software company OZ Communications while still in college. The tech firm had 200 employees and had sold over 100 million copies of its messaging software to major operators by the time Mogensen sold it to Nokia, in 2008.

In that 20-year period, Mogensen also co-founded mobile operator Islandssimi (which later became Vodafone Iceland) and animation studio CAOZ (creators of a full-length feature about Thor, amongst other projects).

Back in 2010, after the Icelandic banking collapse, he led a group of investors to resurrect the country’s ‘MP Bank’ and is still vice chairman of the lender.

Says the Icelander:

I come from that sort-of entrepreneurial, start-up environment. I’ve been associated with the technology field, and we have tried to apply that same enthusiasm and culture to ‘Wow’.”

New beginnings

His nascent airline was ranked as 7th best low-cost carrier in Europe at last year’s Skytrax World Airline Awards — and was the youngest company in the top ten.

Passengers can expect “a great, broad happy smile” each time they step on board a Wow plane, Mogenson maintains.

The company’s Facebook page is plastered with good-humoured looking staff, engaged in all manner of mid-air, customer-friendly hijinx.

Capture Wow Air Wow Air

Signing off

“Extreme skiing, cycling and triathalons,” are listed as Mogenson’s main hobbies on the Wow website. He also leads an annual 1,300km midnight-sun charity bike ride around the island of Iceland.

Before we let him off the phone to head back to whatever hare-brained adventure sport he’d taken a break from to talk to us, we had to ask  Mogenson about the photo below — sent to us by his Irish PR firm.

The fact that he was sitting in front of a bank of photos that appeared to show people standing on sinking sports utility vehicles in various Icelandic lakes had us a bit worried. It seemed just a little but… well, odd.

Nothing to be concerned about, apparently.

“The picture you’re referring to is actually by Olafur Eliasson, who is probably the best known and most widely respected artist in Iceland. He has had shows at the Tate Modern and all over the world.”

That’s us told. (In fairness, he was laughing as he spoke.)

Read: Flights to the US from €149 as WOW Air enters Irish market

Read: Ireland had Europe’s largest increase in job ads last year

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