Norwegian Air customers refused compensation by the trouble-plagued budget carrier can take the airline to court, backed by the Transport Appeals Board (Transportklagenemnda). On Tuesday the board said it would cover the legal expenses of any plaintiffs to get a judicial clarification on the case.
“We want a few cases so that the lawsuit gets the broadest possible basis,” Board Chairman, Judge Finn Haugen, told newspaper Aftenposten. Earlier complaints have been resolved before reaching the courts, but Haugen expected a case would proceed to trial in the coming months because Norwegian has decided not to pay compensation as a point of principle.
“On that background it can be an advantage both for Norwegian and the appeals board that there’s a judicial clarification of the case,” explained Haugen. “It is therefore important that we get applications to cover the expenses of complainants who have some different grounds for their claims so that a court decision can reflect several issues.”
Grounds for complaint
Norwegian Air began operating its long-haul routes last spring, beginning with Bangkok and New York, before expanding to other US airports. The company ordered several new Boeing 787 Dreamliners to operate the routes, but the aircraft were delivered months behind schedule and were continually hindered by technical problems. The issues culminated over the Christmas/New Year period, when thousands of customers were left stranded and a record number of complaints were lodged.
Norwegian’s solution in many of the cases was to hire old replacement planes from Portugese airlines. One plaintiff’s case is to demand compensation for missing out on the “Dreamliner experience” heavily marketed by the company, arguing that Norwegian did not deliver the product he was promised when he booked the ticket. The appeals board agreed the case warranted a 10 percent refund.
Norwegian refused to accept the claim and pay compensation, arguing the company fulfilled its obligation to bring passengers to their destination. Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen from Norwegian’s communications department said the company would welcome legal clarification on the case.
“We are fundamentally against being punished for fulfilling our obligations to provide alternatives to our passengers,” said Sandaker-Nielsen. “Such a recommendation would also set a precedent in the whole industry, where changes to aircraft happens worldwide every single day. Paradoxically enough, the EU legislation allows you to use a bus as alternative transport if it is the best option for the travelers, but the board believes that an Airbus 340 is so much worse as an alternative that people should get a price cut.”