5   +   6   =  

We get quite a lot of mail from readers who’ve faced terrible airline experiences. It’s never fun to hear, but often it’s hard to understand the circumstances surrounding many of the events. When my sister in law recently had a troublesome flight with Norwegian Airlines, I was however front and center- seeing the events transpire in real time. Norwegian Airlines failed in this instance in every way possible, and their customer care in the after math has been far worse.

Update: Norwegian has responded. Read the backstory then follow link below!

The Background And Story…

My sister in law was due to depart on Norwegian Airlines 11PM flight from New York’s JFK to London Gatwick Airport last month. At roughly 6 in the evening, she received a notification, (always provide contact details on bookings) informing her that her flight would be departing at 3AM. That’s a bummer, but with advanced warning- it made it semi ok. The catch? JFK Terminal 1 security closes at midnight, so she’d still need to be checked in and through security before midnight. She did all of this, which was not ideal in itself- but the plane did not depart until 6am. No choice for passengers, but to sleep on the floor- airside.

The Reason For The Delay, Per Norwegian…

Norwegian specifically stated in the initial message and subsequent communications that the delay was due to a technical aircraft issue. This is a massively important distinction, for anyone keeping score. Air traffic control, weather or other issues would make this flight a grey area for EU261 delay compensation claims, but airline tech issues are not extraordinary circumstances and are definitely eligible. For this flight my sister in law (and everyone else on the plane) is due roughly $650, regardless what they paid for their ticket. This is a wonderful and fair EU system to keep passengers rights and standards in line- and airlines in check.

Norwegian Denied Her Claim With No Recourse…

Making people get to the airport at 11PM, for a flight that won’t leave for 4 hours is pretty dreadful in itself. Making them then sleep on the floor for 6+ hours until the flight actually departed, as the sun began to rise- is even worse. But then adding insult to injury, denying an open and shut claim just to play hardball is truly terrible business practice. This is where I find frustration. And for Norwegian, that’s likely the entire point. Most people do just give up on the issue, assuming that the end of the (regrettable) line has been reached.

But This Is Far From Over…

There is no doubt, after examining the circumstances that this is an open and shut case where she is legally due compensation under the EU261 passenger rights. Not only has the airline taken almost 30 days to deny the initial claim, it’s offered no point of contact to escalate. My sister in law asked whether she should use Airhelp, a company we’ve recommended to pursue the claim. It’s a great idea when things are grey, but I feel this is too black and white to give up a slice- just yet. I’ve instructed her to refile the claim, asking to escalate it to a decision making supervisor. If this proves unfruitful, Airhelp may be the solution, since their legal team will be able to go to greater lengths to win the legally entitled money. 75% of $650 is better than 100% of nothing.

This Is Really Poor And A Reason For Pause…

Up until this instance we’ve been proponents of Norwegian. We recently wrote about how manageable and palatable their $69-$99 flight to Europe were, given the price. We’ve also written about how to make the most of the experience, as well as their price advantages versus WOW Air. We’ve shared quite a few of their deals. Seeing first hand how the airline is dodging these issues without legal regard is alarming. I’ve since heard too many stories of people stranded on holiday, with similar or longer delays. Is there a greater cost behind those $99 deals? I for one am certainly in a holding pattern about future Norwegian purchases.

Update: Norwegian responded and is compensating passengers. Read HOW here

What would you do here?