a plane with seats and a television

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?



Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Hire a hacker ad mess their web and ticketing system. Rather than financial compensation I’d rather pirsue personal satisfaction.

  2. Personally even though I know they’d take a sizeable chunk of the compensation, I’d go straight to AirHelp. They’ve helped me get back some compensation for past flights I thought were way past being owed anything. But that was because I didn’t yet know about EC261/2004.

  3. Try using the Resolver website … totally free to use, all the template letters you need are there, and if literally doesn’t cost a penny.

    I had the same issue with United who denied culpability for a flight that went tech, and they just continually refused to accept they were liable. Eventually they told me not to bother contacting them again as they were not going to change their mind!

    I had used Resolver from the beginning so their next step was an escalation to the CAA … within 14 days I was contacted by United & offered the full amount I was due.

  4. Terrible airline as most, if not all flights to NYC or back are delayed. They are so low down the pecking order they get shafted by airport control.
    I had a technical fault cancellation from LGW which ended up with a cancellation after a long long wait. To be fair, their customer service was good and I was rebooked for a flight 2 days later. The full compo took 6 weeks but did appear on my account.

    I am reticent about using them again due to their constant delays and farming out of the trans Atlantic route to Inferior airlines with NO entertainment whatsoever. Not good for families with young children.

  5. potcake – Not sure about LCC, BA messed up 4 months ago , denied customers legal minimum, changed their minds in press releases but a cursory check on social media will reveal 4months on many are still awaiting refunds / compensation… They’re certainly not low cost on ticket price (although seat pitch / size / service are probably comparable.

  6. I am not sure that EU rules are enforceable in Mainland USA – Compensation for late / delayed floghts are for those originating (departure) from EU…

  7. This is the opposite to my experience last year. I had a flight from BGO-ARN cancelled a few hours before departure (woke up in the AM to a SMS notifying me of this) and, while their call centre was useless, I went to the airport anyway (had nothing else to do!) and they put the two of us up in a hotel with meals and taxi vouchers.

    The EC261 claim was filed before I left Norway, and was paid a couple of weeks later. They didn’t cover the loss of the first night of a prepaid booking in Stockholm, but I felt the compo was fair enough, given what I’d paid for the flights, to cover the cost of that and my wasted time.

    Even prior to this, I had read of others’ less than satisfactory experiences though, so feel I was probably in the minority, and they certainly weren’t making people aware of their rights at the airport (I was explaining it to a Canadian woman in the same situation while I was waiting, and she seemed baffled at the concept of EC261).

  8. Even though they are an EU airline, do EU passenger compensation regulations apply to flights departing from USA; or do regs apply only to flights departing EU?

  9. @John: BA is only a half-step from being a LCC in everything but price. Sad state of affairs for what was once one of the best.

  10. Don’t let it upset you. Recognise that you’ve a few hoops to jump through and just get on with it. It will take a little time but you know how to play the game. Those $69 flights were not easily won for Norwegian and they’ll attempt to drive down costs wherever they can.

    Don’t mess around for too long. You (your sister) could probably issue proceedings in the Small Claims Court online in the UK. Search for MCOL.

  11. I think this was the same flight I was on (3 Sept?). Total nightmare and share her pain. I was in Premium and had access to the Alitalia lounge (if you can call it that) until 00:30 where we were then left to our own devices. All the food and drink places closed at 1am so tough if you wanted a some caffeine to keep you awake. I just heard that they will be honoring my claim but that payments will be delayed as they have a bit of a backlog (you don’t say). My main gripe was complete lack of ground support to be able to review options. I flew out BA First (using AVIOS) so you can imagine what a come down that was, Keep fighting, low-cost should not be an excuse for running a substandard operation. In my view they should have cancelled the flight and put us up in hotels until the morning.

  12. Because of my business purpose every year I need go abroad. But recently two or three times I am facing flight delay problem. Now I decide I will claim for flight delay compensation. Anyone help me. Where I am claim for flight delay compensation?

  13. I’d just like to say that Norwegian is still scamming customers, and I’d highly recommend refraining from any positive press. Apparently there is no penalty for them to lie and deny claims… either you give up, or you go to legal means and they pay you what they were originally obligated? Well of course they should just deny everything, it’s a free option.

    I was on a flight that got cancelled after a baggage handler ran into a door. This occurred while we were all sitting on the plane, and it took them 3 hours to assess the damage and eventually cancel at around 3AM. Norwegian told passengers that they would be automatically rebooked and hotels would be provided – neither was done, I had to rebook myself and got lucky, some passengers were stuck for several days.

    Norwegian then denied the claim, saying that it was due to an “earlier flight disruption”. As blatant of a lie as there can be, as we were literally on the plane when the accident occurred. I will never fly them again. I don’t mind things going wrong, but I can’t stand being lied to.

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