As Norwegian Air struggles to survive, its past keeps coming back to haunt it. Norway’s consumer council confirms that it’s “drowning” in complaints filed by Norwegian passengers whose travel was disrupted by delayed and cancelled flights long before the Corona crisis set in.
“I can confirm that we have thousands of cases piled up, waiting for a court meeting,” Alexander Dey, court commissioner for Oslo, Bærum and Asker, told state broadcaster NRK on Tuesday. The cases date back to the fall of 2018. Last year another 3,000 complaints were filed, while this year, complaints were coming in at a rate of 1,000 a month. Lawyers handling some of the complaints against Norwegian say they’re running at least 10 times the number as those filed against either SAS or Widerøe.
“None of the cases has anything to do with the Corona situation today,” Dey said. Rather, they almost all involve demands for compensation from Norwegian, filed after flights were delayed or cancelled. They generally involve claims amounting to between EUR 250 and EUR 600 each.
Norwegian passengers have complained for years about poor service, especially after its long-distance routes were launched and Norwegian had no back-up aircraft when things went wrong. Norwegian officials generally argue that delays and cancellations have been beyond the airline’s control, while passengers argue that they’re fully entitled to compensation under EU regulations that also apply in Norway.
The claims end up being filed in Bærum, where Norwegian Air is headquartered, and they’ve overwhelmed the local court. “This is the price we pay for having an airline in our district,” Dey told NRK. There’s currently a six-year backlog, he said, and the local court would need to hire more judges to deal with them all. That’s unlikely, although Bærum has appealed to the justice ministry for help.
Norwegian Air has blamed many of the complaints on the forced grounding of its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX jets, and trouble with its Boeing 787 jets, which it also claims were beyond the airline’s control.