Norwegian Air complaints pile up

Unhappy Norwegian Air customers have lodged a record number of complaints, both with the embattled airline and the Transport Complaints Board (Transportklagenemnda). More than 200 grievances have been registered with the board alone, as Norwegian’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliners continue to cause major issues.

Norwegian Air's first new Boeing 787 Dreamliner finally landed at Oslo's main airport at Gardermoen on June 30. The airline has now begun testing them before putting them into service on Norwegian's new long-distance routes to Bangkok, New York and Fort Lauderdale. PHOTO: Norwegian Air

‘Dreamliner’ has been something of a misnomer for the trouble-plagued Boeing 787s. The Transport Complaints Tribunal has received a record number of complaints from Norwegian Air passengers after Dreamliner problems caused months of cancellations and lengthy delays. PHOTO: Norwegian Air

“We have never before seen this scope of complaints in a single case,” Judge Einar Kaspersen who chairs the tribunal told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). Kaspersen said the first port of call for disgruntled customers was the airline itself, then the Tribunal reviews Norwegian’s handling of the case. “There are probably many who neglect to go further with the matter after they’ve first been rejected. Anyone can complain further.”

Most of the complaints involve problems experienced last autumn. Norwegian’s intercontinental service began last May to New York and Bangkok, but technical problems with the Dreamliners delayed their delivery. Norwegian was forced to lease old aircraft, and suffered a series of lengthy delays and flight cancellations.

Issues escalate
Norwegian’s problems didn’t end when it took delivery of its first three Dreamliners in August, September and November. Between May and September, 49 percent of its departures were delayed. The state broadcaster NRK reported Dreamliner problems cost Norwegian NOK 100 million (USD 16.2 million) in the third quarter of 2013 alone.

The airline also had enormous problems over the Christmas/New Year period, with broken air conditioning on one long haul flight, hundreds affected by long delays and passengers left stranded in New York for almost three days.

2013 was a horror year for the airline, as Norwegian also faced issues with its airline license, “social dumping” accusations over its hiring of cheaper Thai staff, a threatened pilot strike and a push to ban the carrier by US airlines.

Passengers can seek compensation of up to NOK 4,800 for delays of more than three hours on long haul flights. Norwegian told DN it has no record of the number of complaints it has received, and how many have succeeded.

“The reason why 200 complaints have ended up at the tribunal is because of delays with their flights, due to what Norwegian describes as an extraordinary event according to EU regulations,” said Lasse Sandaker-Nilsen, Norwegian’s head of information.

Should be 90% reliable
Norwegian Air CEO Bjørn Kjos said there’s no doubt the ongoing Dreamliner dramas have damaged his company’s reputation. “It is absolutely terrible,” he criticised. “There should not be any delays, and delays over Christmas is the worst timing. Airlines should get passengers safely onwards.”

Norwegian's chief executive Bjørn Kjos was all smiles and proud of his airline's new Dreamliners, until they turned into a nightmare. PHOTO: Norwegian Air

Norwegian’s chief executive Bjørn Kjos has held crisis talks with Boeing representatives in Washington DC. He admitted the problems have damaged his company’s reputation, and said Norwegian is seeking compensation from Boeing. PHOTO: Norwegian Air

Boeing management traveled to Norway last September. On Monday Kjos held further crisis meetings with Boeing representatives in Washington DC, who acknowledged the Dreamliners haven’t performed as promised.

“The meetings have been very constructive,” Kjos told NRK. “They have covered some different things. This one was about flying rights here in the US, and the other was to get Boeing’s Dreamliner flying properly.”

Kjos said the discussions concerned better access to technicians and spare parts, as well as discussions over who foots the bill for the delays. He denied Norwegian’s flight schedule was too densely packed, exacerbating delay issues.

“You can’t add to the network from the starting point that the planes won’t function as they should. They are built to fly a certain number of hours in a day, and it’s up to Boeing to make sure they do that,” Kjos countered.

“The aircraft come with a guarantee which says they will be about 90 percent reliable,” Asgeir Nyseth of Norwegian Long Haul, the subsidiary which operates Norwegian’s intercontinental flights told DN. “We agreed that they haven’t been. Therefore we’re now discussing financial compensation.”

Norwegian is demanding both financial compensation and a discount on the remaining seven Dreamliners the airline has ordered. DN reported Boeing has reached undisclosed agreements with other disgruntled Dreamliner buyers, including Japanese airline ANA and Polish LOT. Norwegian has yet to receive any compensation from Boeing.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate

  • inquisitor

    It would seem the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II procurement is also experiencing quite a bit of turbulence.

  • elias

    not waste your time or energy with this carrier they are nothing more than concerned with their bottom line they pretend to care for their employees but all they care about is their profit they hire flight attendant in New York for me a 1500 dollars a month that is below the poverty level standard and expect you to provide safety service and loyalty clearly they know not heard about Obamacare as they require you to pay 50 percent of your health insurance this is the company that should be avoided look into their track record they have poor airplane maintenance and poor customer service buyer beware do not succumb to the price cheap payment equals cheap service flight attendants stay away from this carrier they have no respect for you as an American citizen or any of the FAA regulations

  • Jerry Howe

    My heritage is Norwegian and as much as I want to give Norwegian Airlines a fighting chance, this airline is guilty of false advertising on an unheard of level.
    There are the masters of bait and switch.
    Pay a little more and fly with Air France. They are truly professional.

  • David Laker

    Fraudulent offer resulted in doubling fare:

    After booking two seats on Norwegian TRD-LGW May 24th,
    I signed in to print boarding passes and
    was welcomed by name and invited to take advantage of a lower-priced ticket on
    the same route arriving at the same time.
    Who wouldn’t accept such an offer? I was immediately charged with the new fare
    PLUS cancellation charges and the original fare remained charged to my credit
    card. The new fare plus cancellation charges plus
    the original fare cost in total, almost $900 for two economy seats, one way for
    less than three hours of flight time. I
    immediately called Norwegian in the USA where it was booked but to no avail–in
    fact, total indifference. I asked my
    company in Norway to investigate and they were met with an explanation that it
    was just ‘advertising’. It may be
    advertising in Norwegian but in English, it is fraud.

    • richard albert

      Have you contacted your credit card provider? A little while back I had a resort hotel pull one like this on me. I showed up very late (flight delay) and a security guard checked me in. Barely enough English to do so (this was Florida, USA). I called their office when it opened in the morning and sure enough they had me down as a no-show. They proceeded to as much as double bill me, which I discovered looking at my transactions, not because they said anything. I contacted them and my travel department contacted them. The reaction was always “…we have taken/will take care of that…” Finally called the CC company. About a day after that I got a call back from a really nice lady in their fraud unit who wanted me to fax her ‘everything’, which I did. They pulled all the charges and sent the resort a rather bland letter explaining that they weren’t getting paid until they explained. Instead the resort called me up yelling that I had stopped their charge, which I ignored and reported to the fraud lady. They never did reinstate any charges. Our travel auditors pulled them off of the approval list. Apparently they were doing this sort of scam routinely, which is why the fraud lady was real interested. Calling this in to your credit card provider just might be a good idea. Amex in particular takes consumer complaints very seriously.

  • Jeremy Axworthy

    I am very unhappy with how Norwegian has dealt with my complaint. I booked a one way flight from New York to London on July 29th 2014. I noticed that my Visa debit card had two identical charges for the airfare, one of them on July 23rd and the second on the 25th. I called my bank who told me that the charge was pending. I called the airline and received an explanation that the airline held a charge for a few days and it would be released. In the meantime I am unable to use this money while on vacation in the UK. My bank tells me that after 10 days they will raise the issue.
    I sent an email asking the airline to explain, still no reply. I think this issue is fraud and will never fly with them again. I will also tell my expat friends who fly frequently to avoid this carrier.

    • aroseisa

      Same thing with me right now and almost a year later. Charged twice for my one way ticket and same explanation. Same explanation also. Did you ever get your money back?

  • Willi Stefan

    Yeah, avoid them at any cost. Poor service & support, upto 100 hours delay.

  • Charlie

    Shame on you, Norwegian.com, for the absolute worst flying experience I have ever had. When your customers pay you for a flying experience aboard the Dreamliner, that is what we expect to receive. Instead, you switched everyone onto an ancient, TV-less, smaller, non-direct flight due to the Dreamliner being “unavailable”. I’m sorry to inform you, however, that when a plane is not booked enough and you don’t want to waste money, you can’t just say that the original plane is no longer available. What you do is suck up the losses like a real company and fulfill your customers’ orders at a loss. Due to this unfair decision, your passengers had their direct flight aboard the Dreamliner changed into a 2.5 hour flight to Iceland, a 1 hour refuel where everyone was stuck onboard, and then an 8.5 hour flight to Oakland. Because of your decision to change your passengers to a smaller plane not capable of making the entire trip from Norway to Oakland without a refuel, you wasted about 4 hours of our time.

    Parallel it to a situation in which your customers booked a night’s stay in a Hilton, only to be moved to a Motel 6 with little apology, no compensation, anything. I still cannot believe that your company thinks it’s okay to steal from customers. We paid for services that were in no way fully satisfied.

    It really is disappointing that your regard for your customers fell a mile short. I believe that caring for your customers should be a top priority, but I, as well as the rest of the passengers aboard flight DY7063, see that this is not true of Norwegian Airlines.

  • soldierblue68 .

    On a recent return trip from London on Norwegian , the check-in lady took my credit card . I asked her Why ? She said it was proceedure , i paid her 30 pounds foe a checked bag and when i got home she had charged my card and pocketed the cash , still talking to Norwegian about this .

  • Joanna Bates

    I am extremely unhappy with Norwegian Airlines and can see why they have received a record number of complaints. My flight was delayed for over four hours due to staffing issues. The plane was ready for take off on time but they had no flight crew. Norwegian are now blaming the delay on a technical fault which occurred the previous day. How can they get away with this?

  • Zak Bukhari

    Just got off the phone to a customer services. Its about as bad as it gets. My wife was at check-in 1 hour 20 minutes before the flight but they didn’t let her on. The website says they close 1 hour before. The person I spoke to was highly irritating and very robotic. The answer was simply fill in a complaint form. No empathy. When I asked that there was no compassion he said I am not here for that 🙂 When asked how long before I can expect a response I was told 5 days. I said thats ridiculous and the reply was “do you want me to lie to you”. I must say this is for sure the worst customer service I have experienced !

  • foxysoxy

    My husband was supposed to fly London Gatwick to JFK last night at 6pm.
    Too late to not have left for the airport (in fact he arrived already) and was told 20 min delay, then 40, then 60 min then 75, then 90 and on and on until finally after assuring us it would definitely go that night they cancelled it and said – don’t worry we’ll get you hotel rooms – my handicapped husband said please are you sure? Otherwise I’ll book my own; of course that is our promise! After 2 hours of waiting… oops – no more rooms, sleep on the floor at the airport; we are leaving at 8AM Never notified him; now it is leaving at 6 pm tonight. No matter what it costs… fly another airline!

    • Margaret Anne Pawsey

      I was also on that flight. I have never in all my flying been treated so poorly. I will never fly Norwegian Airlines again. I will also make sure I tell as many people as possible that they are dreadful.

      • inquisitor

        Thanks for chiming in with your comments. I can see the advantages for a direct flight to the states is just not worth the risk with this airline.

    • John

      I had the exact same thing happen to me last night

  • grumpy1

    I was excited when I heard Norwegian would fly direct from Oakland, California to Oslo. Trying to book a flight on its web site was so problematic that I gave up. After reading the reviews, I’m glad I did!. KLM via Amsterdam was expensive, but went smoothly. To be somewhat fair to Norwegian, many of its problems do stem from the Dreamliner’s unreliability; that is a lot for a fairly new airline to deal with. Right now, I’m scared to even set foot on a Dreamliner plane.

  • Srusht Shah

    They were supposed to change my flight from 28th to 1st instead they changed it to 5th and after checking my email i spoke to them over the phone and they just ignored me even when i asked if i could listen to the conversation that surley was recorded they made excuses and i had to book another ticket and pay alote of money to be back to work on time

  • A. Regner

    I flew NA from Oakland to Stockholm this July and loved it. On time, comfortable, inexpensive. On the NA return flight to Oakland in August, we waited in line for two hours to get through customs at Oakland airport..There were only 4 customs agents for about 400 passengers. By contrast, going through customs at SF airport takes about 10 to 20 minutes and they are adequately staffed with customs agents.
    I don’ t know who is responsible but it really needs to improve if NA is to continue using Oakland ‘international’ airport as an entry point into the US. Other than that, I am glad I chose Norwegian Airlines.