Angry passengers get no relief

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Norway’s airline complaints board has rejected the vast majority of complaints filed by Norwegian Air passengers who were stranded for days over the Christmas and New Year holidays. They’d demanded compensation for their ruined holidays but have now been told that Norwegian owes them nothing.

As another Norwegian jet lands at Oslo's main airport at Gardermoen, the airline has managed to avoid paying out compensation to stranded passengers on its long-haul service. PHOTO: Samferdselsdepartementet

As another Norwegian jet lands at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen, the airline has managed to avoid paying out compensation to stranded passengers on its long-haul service. PHOTO: Samferdselsdepartementet

“The problems that delayed these passengers were so unexpected and arose so suddenly that Norwegian is not obliged to pay compensation,” Rolf Forsdahl, leader of the national airline complaints board (Flyklagnembda) told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday.

Forsdahl acknowledged that airline passengers seldom are understanding when their flights are delayed, especially those traveling on Norwegian who were left stranded at JFK airport in New York during the holidays. “But if airlines had to pay 250 to 600 euros to every passenger every time a flight was seriously delayed or cancelled, airline tickets would become considerably more expensive,” Forsdahl told NRK.

‘Get what you pay for’
Passengers on low-fare airlines thus must accept that “they get what they pay for,” according to the complaint board’s conclusion. The board handled 45 complaints from angry passengers on Norwegian Air just at its last meeting, but only three won compensation and not because of airline delays. The board agreed with Norwegian that the delays and cancelled flights they suffered did not entitle them to the compensation laid out in EU regulations.

“We’re glad the board has come to the same conclusion as us,” Norwegian spokesman Lasse Sandaker Nielsen told NRK. “It’s important to stress that Norwegian always follows the EU’s regulations regarding passenger rights, and that’s what we’ve done here.” He also noted that Norwegian has offered some “goodwill” compensation to its thousands of passengers who’ve suffered delays, even though the airline didn’t need to do so.

Nielsen conceded that “we understand very well that folks get frustrated when their flights are delayed. We have said all along that we encourage each individual passenger to contact us, so that we can try to handle their complaint.”

Tops complaints list
Norwegian now has the dubious distinction of being the target of the largest number of passenger complaints filed with the airline board, after launching its troubled intercontinental service last year. It’s been plagued by problems with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets ordered for it, by international labour complaints over its low-paid Asian crews and by a lack of aircraft to replace grounded Dreamliners. Many passengers who bought tickets on Norwegian’s new long-haul routes mostly wanted to fly on the Dreamliners, and were deeply disappointed when they were replaced by old aircraft that Norwegian had to hastily lease. There also have been some serious complaints filed over other problems within Norwegian’s route system.

Nielsen claimed that he and his colleagues at Norwegian think the worst of the start-up problems are behind them. “Our punctuality has steadily improved over the past three months and we have avoided the really long delays,” he said. “Everyone who flies with us must realize that we do take all this very seriously.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund