UPDATED: More than 200 passengers on board one of Norwegian Air’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner jets faced yet another nightmare trip over the weekend, with their flight setting what may be a record long delay because Norwegian’s aircraft lacked a spare part. On Monday, the delay was estimated to be as long as 44 hours.
Newspaper VG reported that passengers first had to spend many hours in the airport terminal in Orlando, Florida Saturday night before finally being sent to a local hotel. The flight should have taken off at around 10pm Saturday local time and land in Oslo on Sunday.
Norwegian spokesperson Charlotte Holmbergh Jacobsson initially told VG Sunday afternoon that the delay was estimated to be 24 hours, since the aircraft was waiting for the reserve part that had to be flown in from Norwegian’s base at London’s Gatwick Airport. By midday on Monday, the aircraft remained parked at the airport, unable to take off from Orlando. That extended the already lengthy delay to at least 40 hours.
One passenger complained to VG that it took “many hours” before the 221 passengers on board the Norwegian flight finally were offered accommodation in the middle of the night. That turned out to be at a Day’s Inn motel near the airport, where passengers also had to wait in long lines at check-in when they all were finally delivered to the Day’s Inn lobby.
“There hasn’t been any good follow-up,” Terje Rølvåg, age 50, told VG. “It’s one thing to get the message right away, and something else to sit for many hours in a terminal.” He was on a business trip to Florida and was also delayed by a day when traveling from Oslo to Orlando.
He and his fellow passengers ended up having to spend two extra nights in Orlando. Norwegian officials told VG on Monday that a new departure time was set for 2pm local time Monday (8pm Oslo time). That would get the passengers into Oslo early Tuesday morning, fully 40 hours later than their scheduled arrival time Sunday. By late Monday afternoon, Norwegian was reporting that the flight was due to land at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen at 4:55am on Tuesday. By midnight, the flight’s arrival time was delayed again, to 9:25am Tuesday.
Norwegian officials had to once again apologize profusely for the two-day delay, with the airline’s information chief Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen admitting the situation was “just terrible” for passengers on board and all those involved. “This is an unacceptably long delay,” Sandaker-Nielsen told VG.
He couldn’t even guarantee that the flight would take off at 2pm in Orlando, calling it “an estimated departure time,” Sandaker-Nielsen said. It was “taking time,” he said, for Boeing, which is responsible for maintenance of the aircraft, to get the spare part to Orlando.
Sandaker-Nielsen said Norwegian had tried to charter another aircraft to get its passengers to Oslo, “but there haven’t been any available aircraft because of the football World Cup. Passengers will have all their food and hotel covered, but we understand that doesn’t mean much when they most of all just want to get to Oslo.”
Norwegian has been plagued during the past year by start-up problems with its new intercontinental service that uses Boeing’s troubled new 787 aircraft.