Norwegian Air - A Cautionary Tale

Old Jul 20, 17, 12:18 pm
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Norwegian Air - A Cautionary Tale

I've been a longtime lurker, especially in the old CO Onepass forum and current United MileagePlus forum. But, this is my first post.


About six months ago I bought JFK-LGW Premium tickets from Norwegian traveling out 6/30 and back 7/10 on 787-9 aircraft both ways. I had never flown them, but the pricing was excellent for a product that looked to be between Economy+ and Business. I'm a bigger guy, so seat room was my primary concern.


A few days before my flight I started checking the on-time performance of the outbound flight on flightaware when I notice that instead of a Norwegian 787-9, a 777-200 has been operating on the JFK-LGW route. Apparently Norwegian had a 787-9 down. In addition, I could no longer see a seat map for the outbound flight on Norwegian's site. I was concerned so I called and did an online chat with Norwegian to confirm we had seats in the premium section of the replacement aircraft. I was assured that we would.


The day of the flight we arrived at JFK 3 hours before departure time to check-in and check our bags (Norwegian doesn't allow online checkin to/from JFK). The counter agent tells me we've been downgraded from Premium to Economy since the 777-200 has fewer seats than a 787-9. I'm obviously livid, but the agent and his supervisor say all decisions are made in Oslo and my only option is to cancel. I was traveling with my wife for vacation and last minute tickets on another airline would have been crazy expensive, so I really had no option but to accept the downgrade. I find it completely unacceptable that Norwegian knew about the equipment swap days in advance and didn't inform me of the downgrade before check-in.


To make things even worse, we were placed in the middle section of the plane and they refused to move us to an exit row or bulkhead. The counter agent also lied to us about the third seat in our section being blocked off (someone was seated in in it). Finally, the plane was a couple hours delayed, as seems to be standard practice for this flight.


I've flown in Economy on cheap domestic airlines before and this was so much worse. My knees were jammed into the seat in front of me even before the person in front of me put their seat back. Apparently they had added seats to economy (reducing legroom) on this 777-200 to partially make up for the lower seating capacity it has compared to a 787-9.


The 777-200 ended up being operated by EuroAtlantic, a Portugese charter company. It was a 20 years old plane with no working IFE and the most of the FAs didn't seem to speak or understand English.


By the time we returned home 10 days later Norwegian had fixed their 787-9 and we were given Premium seats at check-in. However, after boarding the plane, we were told that the cargo handlers had made a cut in the wall of the cargo area and needed engineering sign-off before we could depart. The pilot told us that they had to send pictures to Boeing to confirm the plane was flyable. Always nice to hear your aircraft has questionable airworthiness! That process delayed us three hours while we sat on the plane. We were in the first row, so I got to hear the FAs complaining that they had to do an extra water service while we waited and they should be compensated for it. Very unprofessional.


Bottom line is, if you book Norwegian expect delays and realize that they regularly use sub-par charters to fill-in when they have equipment issues. Take a look at flightaware or another site before you book to see the on-time performance of the route you're considering and what aircraft they're actually using.


I've learned my lesson and won't risk flying with them again.




Edit to add link to The Points Guy write-up:

https://thepointsguy.com/2017/08/cau...ing-norwegian/
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Last edited by CC1E; Aug 8, 17 at 8:30 am
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Old Jul 20, 17, 12:22 pm
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Originally Posted by CC1E View Post
I've been a longtime lurker, especially in the old CO Onepass forum and current United MileagePlus forum. But, this is my first post.


About six months ago I bought JFK-LGW Premium tickets from Norwegian traveling out 6/30 and back 7/10 on 787-9 aircraft both ways. I had never flown them, but the pricing was excellent for a product that looked to be between Economy+ and Business. I'm a bigger guy, so seat room was my primary concern.


A few days before my flight I started checking the on-time performance of the outbound flight on flightaware when I notice that instead of a Norwegian 787-9, a 777-200 has been operating on the JFK-LGW route. Apparently Norwegian had a 787-9 down. In addition, I could no longer see a seat map for the outbound flight on Norwegian's site. I was concerned so I called and did an online chat with Norwegian to confirm we had seats in the premium section of the replacement aircraft. I was assured that we would.


The day of the flight we arrived at JFK 3 hours before departure time to check-in and check our bags (Norwegian doesn't allow online checkin to/from JFK). The counter agent tells me we've been downgraded from Premium to Economy since the 777-200 has fewer seats than a 787-9. I'm obviously livid, but the agent and his supervisor say all decisions are made in Oslo and my only option is to cancel. I was traveling with my wife for vacation and last minute tickets on another airline would have been crazy expensive, so I really had no option but to accept the downgrade. I find it completely unacceptable that Norwegian knew about the equipment swap days in advance and didn't inform me of the downgrade before check-in.


To make things even worse, we were placed in the middle section of the plane and they refused to move us to an exit row or bulkhead. The counter agent also lied to us about the third seat in our section being blocked off (someone was seated in in it). Finally, the plane was a couple hours delayed, as seems to be standard practice for this flight.


I've flown in Economy on cheap domestic airlines before and this was so much worse. My knees were jammed into the seat in front of me even before the person in front of me put their seat back. Apparently they had added seats to economy (reducing legroom) on this 777-200 to partially make up for the lower seating capacity it has compared to a 787-9.


The 777-200 ended up being operated by EuroAtlantic, a Portugese charter company. It was a 20 years old plane with no working IFE and the most of the FAs didn't seem to speak or understand English.


By the time we returned home 10 days later Norwegian had fixed their 787-9 and we were given Premium seats at check-in. However, after boarding the plane, we were told that the cargo handlers had made a cut in the wall of the cargo area and needed engineering sign-off before we could depart. The pilot told us that they had to send pictures to Boeing to confirm the plane was flyable. Always nice to hear your aircraft has questionable airworthiness! That process delayed us three hours while we sat on the plane. We were in the first row, so I got to hear the FAs complaining that they had to do an extra water service while we waited and they should be compensated for it. Very unprofessional.


Bottom line is, if you book Norwegian expect delays and realize that they regularly use sub-par charters to fill-in when they have equipment issues. Take a look at flightaware or another site before you book to see the on-time performance of the route you're considering and what aircraft they're actually using.


I've learned my lesson and won't risk flying with them again.
Wow, that's really disappointing! I've wondered about the cheap fares, and like many deals knew there was likely a catch.

Any compensation on the downgrade?
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Old Jul 20, 17, 12:24 pm
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Thanks for the warnings.

The really low fares are very attractive, so it's good to hear from passengers who have suffered the consequences of their minimalist service.
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Old Jul 20, 17, 12:27 pm
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Welcome to FT, CC1E!

Sounds dreadful. I'd be very annoyed by this. Have you explored EC261 downgrade compensation?
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Old Jul 20, 17, 12:28 pm
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Last edited by LondonElite; Jul 20, 17 at 12:31 pm Reason: Duplicate
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Old Jul 20, 17, 1:37 pm
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OP - You could have flown any carrier, paid a lot more, and had the exact same thing happen.

The more important question is whether you have yet claimed a refund and perhaps compensation under EC 261/2004.

As to the outbound, you are entitled to a refund of 75% of the base fare (no taxes).

As to the inbound, if your arrival into JFK was delayed by 3+ hours (delayed departure is irrelevant), you are entitled to EUR 300 and if 4+ hours, it is EUR 600.

This is all payable in cash (equivalent).

At a minimum, your cheap ticket has now become dirt cheap.
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Old Jul 20, 17, 2:33 pm
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I meant to include in the original post that I was able to claim 75% downgrade refund for the outbound segment. Norwegian honored that. It didn't even remotely make up for the terrible seat. 4 hours into that flight I would have paid anything not to be sitting where I was.


I've also been attempting to claim 300Euro for my wife and I based on the return flight being over 3 hours late arriving at JFK. I provided Norwegian with evidence, including the flightaware tracking and a picture of the onboard status screen showing we were still going 0mph 3+ hours after we were supposed to takeoff. It seems like Norwegian is going to shirk their responsibilities on that compensation. I'll submit a complaint to the UK CAA if they do.


Understood that any airline could have mechanical issues and a plane swap. But, most mainline carriers wouldn't have to rely on a charter plane & crew. Also, most airlines allow online checkin (which would have let me see the downgrade 24 hours in advance) or they would have notified about a C-to-Y downgrade. Finally, if there was a C-to-Y downgrade most airlines would have been more accommodative about putting the displaced C customers in a decent seat in Y. Pretty much every question/request from me was met with "they control it all in Oslo."


I mentioned it in my original post, but the Norwegian checkin agent blatantly lied to me about them blocking an open seat next to my wife and I since we'd been downgraded. There was no way for them to do that given that the 772 had lower capacity than a 789. There were quite a few people at the gate who had bought Y tickets and been put on standby due to the reduced seating capacity. I didn't stand around to find out, but I think a lot of them were denied boarding. I spoke with one of them and he said he had found out about the smaller plane at checkin and been put on standby. Completely irresponsible given that Norwegian knew for days that a 772 would serve that route instead of the advertised 789.
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Old Jul 20, 17, 3:16 pm
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Originally Posted by CC1E View Post
I've also been attempting to claim 300Euro for my wife and I based on the return flight being over 3 hours late arriving at JFK. I provided Norwegian with evidence, including the flightaware tracking and a picture of the onboard status screen showing we were still going 0mph 3+ hours after we were supposed to takeoff. It seems like Norwegian is going to shirk their responsibilities on that compensation. I'll submit a complaint to the UK CAA if they do.
It may take a bit of time but if you file a complaint with the CAA, DY will pay up. In my case they paid 600€ for whatever reason for a 3-hr+ delay.


Finally, if there was a C-to-Y downgrade most airlines would have been more accommodative about putting the displaced C customers in a decent seat in Y. Pretty much every question/request from me was met with "they control it all in Oslo."
Did you ask to talk to the station manager? They're the ones calling the shots.

On June 26, they had a 744 operate the route!
EDIT: Wamos Air EC-KXN

Out of curiosity, whose 777 was it?
EDIT: EuroAtlantic CS-TFM

Edit 2: They seem to be using the 744 quite a bit now on intra-EU routes.

Last edited by Palal; Jul 20, 17 at 3:29 pm
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Old Jul 20, 17, 3:19 pm
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Originally Posted by Palal View Post
Out of curiosity, whose 777 was it?
In the OP:

Originally Posted by CC1E View Post

The 777-200 ended up being operated by EuroAtlantic, a Portugese charter company. It was a 20 years old plane with no working IFE and the most of the FAs didn't seem to speak or understand English.
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Old Jul 20, 17, 4:22 pm
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This whole thing is odious. While we all accept the adage that "in life you get what you pay for", when you pay for a service which is promised, you expect to get it, no matter what you paid for it. While by no means an expert on LCCs, I fly a few of them from time to time which include Jetstar (which BTW won the coveted "worst" airline in the world award), Frontier and AirAsia, and I'll tell you that except for a couple of hour delay on one segment with Frontier, all the others have been just fine, and in fact Jetstar had no problem refunding hundreds of $$$ because of schedule changes. But Low Cost or not, the basic expectation in any transaction is to receive the services one paid for, or be compensated reasonably for not receiving them (and in this case to the extent that EU law provides for).

Last edited by bosboy73; Jul 20, 17 at 4:28 pm
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Old Jul 20, 17, 5:02 pm
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I didn't ask for a Station Manager. I'll keep it mind for next time (not that I'll ever fly Norwegian again). The check-in agent brought over his manager, but they were both unsympathetic.

From my research after the fact, it appears that Norwegian uses contract workers at most airports outside Norway. At JFK they all appeared frustrated and disinterested. The gate agents kept telling us we would "board in 30 minutes" for about two hours. Apparently there was a catering issue. After the fourth "we'll board in 30 minutes" announcement my wife and I went to get some food. They then boarded about 10 minutes after the announcement. So we got to wait in a nice line to board. Thinking back on it, I can't imagine them doing a worse job. At one point a passenger waiting actually grabbed the PA mic to announce that the gate agents had no idea how long it would be. People were ready to lose their sh*t.

Yes, the outbound aircraft was EuroAtlantic 772 CS-TFM. It was packed with so many economy seats that none of the personal lights or air vents lined up with the seats. As a bonus, this meant that the personal light buttons seemed to activate random overhead lights within a few rows of where a person was sitting. Their were IFE screens in the seatbacks, but there were completely non-functional. There was a actually a projector and movie screen on the bulkhead. Also non-functional. Been a while since I've seen one of those!
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Old Jul 20, 17, 5:33 pm
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Sounds terrible! Even for normal econ that sounds terrible. It's like you signed up to ride in a limo but they showed up in a motorcycle and asked you to ride on the back.

I've shared my frustration with them in the standard Norwegian thread, but this is another level. With me they gave the same options, accept or cancel. It's tough to cancel once you have all your plans laid out.
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Old Jul 20, 17, 6:08 pm
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Yeah, I've flown LCCs before, but this was beyond anything I've experienced in decades of flying. I had read some threads here about Norwegian before making my booking. They seemed generally positive. Norwegian is fine if they don't run into any Ops issues. But, as soon as they do run into an issue, they have no backup and things go downhill very fast.

Given how often Norwegian seems to use charter aircraft to plug holes caused by down aircraft, I'm surprised more people haven't posted threads like mine. Everyone on both of my flights had reason to complain. But, I guess most people who fly Norwegian aren't frequesnt flyers and just buy based on cost. The vast majority probably have no idea a site like this exists.
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Old Jul 20, 17, 7:29 pm
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Originally Posted by CC1E View Post
I meant to include in the original post that I was able to claim 75% downgrade refund for the outbound segment. Norwegian honored that. It didn't even remotely make up for the terrible seat. 4 hours into that flight I would have paid anything not to be sitting where I was.


I've also been attempting to claim 300Euro for my wife and I based on the return flight being over 3 hours late arriving at JFK. I provided Norwegian with evidence, including the flightaware tracking and a picture of the onboard status screen showing we were still going 0mph 3+ hours after we were supposed to takeoff. It seems like Norwegian is going to shirk their responsibilities on that compensation. I'll submit a complaint to the UK CAA if they do.


Understood that any airline could have mechanical issues and a plane swap. But, most mainline carriers wouldn't have to rely on a charter plane & crew. Also, most airlines allow online checkin (which would have let me see the downgrade 24 hours in advance) or they would have notified about a C-to-Y downgrade. Finally, if there was a C-to-Y downgrade most airlines would have been more accommodative about putting the displaced C customers in a decent seat in Y. Pretty much every question/request from me was met with "they control it all in Oslo."


I mentioned it in my original post, but the Norwegian checkin agent blatantly lied to me about them blocking an open seat next to my wife and I since we'd been downgraded. There was no way for them to do that given that the 772 had lower capacity than a 789. There were quite a few people at the gate who had bought Y tickets and been put on standby due to the reduced seating capacity. I didn't stand around to find out, but I think a lot of them were denied boarding. I spoke with one of them and he said he had found out about the smaller plane at checkin and been put on standby. Completely irresponsible given that Norwegian knew for days that a 772 would serve that route instead of the advertised 789.
Don't bother submitting a complaint to the UK CAA. It is toothless and will simply tell you what you know, e.g. that you are owed EUR 300 each. But, that won't make the money arrive.

Just file a SCC in the appropriate UK court. They do telephonic hearings, but it won't likely get to that.
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Old Jul 20, 17, 8:06 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
Don't bother submitting a complaint to the UK CAA. It is toothless and will simply tell you what you know, e.g. that you are owed EUR 300 each. But, that won't make the money arrive.

Just file a SCC in the appropriate UK court. They do telephonic hearings, but it won't likely get to that.
I really hope it doesn't come to that. Can an American file that easily in a UK Court without a lawyer?

Normally I wouldn't have spent the time it took to write these posts, but Norwegian really got on my bad side. And I felt others should know since no one seems to be calling them out here for their bad service. So, I guess I'll file suit if it's a straight forward and inexpensive process.
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