Passengers protest new seat tax bills

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Norwegian Air, barred from charging passengers’ credit cards to recoup the costs of Norway’s new airline seat tax, has launched another attempt that’s just as unpopular. Passengers are now protesting emails sent out by Norwegian Air this week with an extra tax bill for flights booked and paid for before the tax took effect June 1.

Norwegian Air is facing another storm of complaints, not least on social media, over its decision to once again try billing for the costs of Norway's new airline seat tax. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Norwegian Air is facing another storm of complaints, not least on social media, over its decision to once again try billing for the costs of Norway’s new airline seat tax. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The bills demand either NOK 80 for flights from Norwegian airports to international destinations or NOK 88 for domestic flights within in Norway.

“I think they’re asking for money on false pretenses,” passenger Christian Leonard Quale told newspaper Aftenposten on Friday. He branded  as “arrogant” Norwegian’s claim that the money would be sent straight to the state treasury, and that the state was forcing them to collect the tax. “Norwegian is billing for this to cover its own loss (for having not charged the tax in advance) and so they’ll lose less on the tickets,” Quale claimed.

Quale’s bill came for a flight to the US scheduled for after June 1. He closely followed earlier debate when Norwegian, like Ryanair, tried to charge customers’ credit cards for the tax on flights after June 1. Norway’s consumer affairs officials claimed it was illegal for the airlines to make charges without the customer’s consent, and Norwegian officials dropped the credit card charges, saying they would “evaluate other solutions.”

Now they’ve landed on the demands for what the consumer council calls “a concrete payment” to cover the costs of the new tax that hadn’t been collected when passengers bought their tickets. Charter tour companies have also sent extra bills to customers to collect the tax after their customers already had paid for their trips.

“Customers who disagree can complain to the Norway’s transport complaints bureau (Transportklagenemnda),” Jo Gjedrem of the consumer council (Forbrukerombudet) told Aftenposten.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has stated that it won’t try to recoup the cost of the new tax from customers, and other international airlines have opted to absorb the cost of the tax as well. Norwegian Air officials, however, claim they’re within their rights to recover the tax they protested against mightily, along with other airlines, but failed to halt.

“The Norwegian government and Parliament approved this tax,” Norwegian Air spokesman Daniel Kirchhoff, told Aftenposten. “This isn’t money Norwegian will keep, we’re just collecting it on behalf of the state and would gladly have avoided that job.”

It hasn’t been a good week for Norwegian. First the airline’s stock was pounded after British voters decided to leave the European Union, then it got news that it won’t get new temporary permission to fly to the US although it can get around that setback. The week ended with the airline losing a court case against its pilots and cabin crews.

A local court for Asker og Bærum, just west of Oslo, agreed with Norwegian Air pilots and flight attendants that parent company Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA is their real employer, and can’t organize itself out of employer responsibility in Norway. Norwegian Air has tried to transfer employees to subsidiaries, only to “lease” them back in again at lower compensation levels, but the court ruled that’s illegal. The practice led to an 11-day pilots’ strike last year. Norwegian Air officials said they would study the court ruling before deciding whether to appeal.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund