Norwegian says it has the cheapest transatlantic fares, but it also has the most complaints per million passengers.
Cheap transatlantic air fares can be found at Norwegian, whose disruptive no-frills long-haul business model using hyper-efficient aircraft has proven very popular.
But it is also increasingly criticised by passengers. It had the biggest number of complaints of any of the leading transatlantic carriers in the second quarter of 2018, according to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, plus many more complaints than other low-cost carriers flying in Europe.
It had 526 complaints per 1 million passengers carried, higher than Air France (310), KLM (288), Delta (104), Virgin Atlantic (79), British Airways (63), Air Canada (38), United (37), American Airlines (25) and Lufthansa (none).
Lufthansa’s lack of complaints may be because all of them were resolved at the airline level.
As for the European low-cost sector, Norwegian logged more complaints than Ryanair (319) and easyJet (115). Among all airlines surveyed during the quarter, after Norwegian, TAP was second worst at 430.
The Guardian newspaper tells the stories of some of Norwegian’s disappointed passengers. Cherry Griffiths waited 11 hours at London Gatwick with her family, including two young children, for a Norwegian flight to Chicago, before it was finally cancelled. She admits she then “lost it” and started screaming.
They were told to go back through security to get their luggage, that they would have to book alternative flights themselves if they still wanted to travel, and that no accommodation would be provided, which meant a long drive home. Three months later and the family has still not been refunded.
Norwegian argues the cancelled flights were the result of a “technical issue”. It frequently cites extraordinary circumstances as the reason, which means passengers do not qualify for EU-mandated levels of compensation, the Guardian writes.
In another recent case, Norwegian refused to pay EU compensation when a flight from Florida was cancelled after it got a “puncture” while being wheeled on the tarmac. But a firm of solicitors successfully argued that in this case compensation must in fact be paid to the flight’s passengers.
A Norwegian spokesman comments about the recent complaints: “We have hired other carriers to operate some transatlantic services due to mandatory inspections of a specific Rolls-Royce engine type on some of our Dreamliners. The feedback from customers is that they would rather fly with another aircraft type than not travel at all. Technical issues with some of the hired aircraft in the summer disrupted some flights but have since been resolved and we apologise to those passengers.”