Norwegian Air initially rejected all complaints from passengers who were held on board an Oslo-bound aircraft for 10 hours last month at London Gatwick Airport. Airline officials have now apologized, admitted they did not handle the situation well and offered compensation, but passengers are far satisfied.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Thursday that 72 passengers are jointly demanding compensation of EUR 1,000 plus a refund of their ticket fares and coverage of unexpected ground transport and hotel costs. Norwegian has offered just EUR 300 and refunds of transport costs after landing (in Oslo).
The long delay and confinement on board the London-Oslo flight began when the Gatwick airport temporarily closed because of bad weather on August 10. Other flights started taking off when the airport reopened but the Norwegian flight remained on the ground with passengers on board. The airline has since acknowledged that the delay was extended because the aircraft was running low of fuel and cabin crews had to be relieved by new onboard personnel.
That, passengers point out, can’t be blamed on the weather but rather on the airline itself. “In my opinion, the delays were Norwegian’s responsibility,” Bernt Thorsen, one of those stuck on board, told Aftenposten. “It’s clear that they should have discovered the lack of fuel earlier.”
Adding to the passengers’ lengthy delay and discomfort on board was a lack of any meals during their 10-hour confinement. They reportedly were only offered some water and either potato chips or a brownie. Norwegian officials apologized that food was extremely limited and that the airline was unable to provide any meals. The airline claims it did provide enough water.
Erik Dale, another of the passengers on board, is fronting the compensation claim and demanding a clarification as to whether it was air traffic control at Gatwick or the airline itself that chose to hold the aircraft on the tarmac after the weather improved. Dale told Aftenposten that he was surprised by the passengers’ willingness to keep fighting for their compensation demands, also after Norwegian apologized.
“No one thinks that EUR 300 is adequate, even with refunds for the airfare, transport and hotel costs (after finally landing in Oslo late at night),” Dale said. “Several are furious that this is standard compensation, which shows that Norwegian doesn’t understand how extraordinarily bad this experience was.”
The passenger complaints and demands are the latest for Norwegian, which ranked just last spring as receiving the most complaints of any airline in Norway. The airline has been plagued by technical and labour problems over the years, and accused of first trying to fend off complaints before addressing them.