What To Do If Your Norwegian Flight Is Cancelled

Earlier this week, Ben wrote about how Norwegian is commencing flights between Tampa and London, but at the same time cancelling flights between Seattle and London over the quieter winter months.

Reader SeattleTodd asked the following question in the Ask Lucky forum:

We have round-trip tickets on Norwegian between SEA and LGW over New Year’s, but Norwegian just cancelled all of their Seattle flights after sometime in October. Not sure if they’re dropping Seattle permanently, or just making the route seasonal.

In any event, they sent us an email saying our airport has changed (!!), and we’re now supposed to fly round-trip from LAX. No mention of getting us to/from LAX, just that’s our new departure airport. Of course, they’re offering a full refund (we bought Premium Flex anyway, so who cares about that) but that’s the only option.

Before I call, I wanted to ask this wonderful group what rights we have. Should they put us on other non-stop flights from SEA to London (Virgin Atlantic or British Airways)? Should they have to cover our round trip tickets between Seattle and LAX? If we do cancel, are they on the hook for non-refundable expenses we’ve already made in London?

Contract of Carriage

When you purchase an airline ticket, regardless of the airline, the agreement you enter into with that airline (often called the ‘Contract of Carriage’) is to get you from point A to point B.

Usually, this will be at the time and routing that you selected when booking.

However, occasionally for various reasons flights do not operate as scheduled. This can be for reasons outside the airline’s control, such as extreme weather or civil unrest, or for reasons within the airline’s control, such as choosing to cancel a flight for operational reasons, or because of insufficient demand.

The contract of carriage is then to get you from A to B however the airline can, even if it is not as convenient as the routing you originally booked. You’ll usually be offered a refund as an alternate solution as well.

Norwegian’s Contract of Carriage has the following clauses regarding cancellation of flights:

11.2.3 One of the following remedies will be available to you in the event that your flight is cancelled, re-routed or delayed by five hours or more:

a) We will take all reasonable measures to carry you to your final destination under comparable transport conditions at the earliest opportunity.

b) We will provide re-routing to your final destination at a later date at your convenience under comparable transport conditions, subject to availability of seats.

c) In the case of re-routing to airports other than those in your Itinerary, we will, at our own expense, ensure that you are carried to the agreed destination.

Clause (c) is the most important here, as I will discuss below.

The options

Norwegian has already offered him a full refund, which he would be entitled to in this situation anyway. He has refused this, because he still needs to get to London.

They have proposed that he depart from Los Angeles rather than Seattle, which is almost 1,000 miles away from his original origin.

Now ideally for Todd, he would like to still fly direct from Seattle to London.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic also fly this route direct — I flew it with Virgin Atlantic last year. Unfortunately for Todd, the reality of Norwegian is that they:

These two distinctions are important because Norwegian has no easy way to simply move Todd over to a direct flight on another, competing airline. While they may be able to get a bulk discount if they were moving thousands of passengers over, Norwegian is able to offer lower fares than competitors because they’re not full service, and have a lower cost base. So they would not be willing to move a customer on a $500 Norwegian Premium fare, across to a British Airways $1,000 Premium Economy fare, for example.

They are already cash-strapped, so I’m not surprised they are being inflexible about this.

Todd could attempt to try and escalate the request higher up to be moved onto a direct flight, however I think it would be a waste of time because Norwegian would not be willing to lose money moving a customer to a competitor. It’s just not good business practice for a low cost carrier, regardless of how much the customer wants it.

And I don’t consider they have a legal obligation to get him there directly, but rather only from A to B, so let’s look at the non-direct alternatives.

The Los Angeles option

Norwegian does fly from several other destinations on the West Coast, and Norwegian has moved Todd to a direct flight from Los Angeles to London. While he at least now has a way to get across the Atlantic, the problem is that Los Angeles is almost 1,000 miles from Seattle, and Norwegian has told Todd to make his own way from Seattle to Los Angeles, each way.

I don’t know Todd’s exact travel dates but picking some dates over the New Years period, this could add substantial additional costs to his trip.

Again, Norwegian does not partner with any of these airlines either, so cannot easily move Todd onto connecting flight to get him to and from Los Angeles.

Todd has already asked Norwegian to cover the cost of the additional Seattle to Los Angeles return flights given clause 11.2.3(c) of their own Contract of Carriage says they will do so, to which their response is:

They’re taking a very hard line — because the schedule change is so far in advance, they will only change the dates, allow us to travel to/from LAX (instead of SEA), or refund the ticket. Absolutely no chance of getting us to/from LAX or putting us on another carrier out of Seattle. And when I asked to speak to a supervisor, she insisted “our supervisors do not talk to customers”.

This contradicts clause 11.2.3(c) of their Contract of Carriage, which says that where Norwegian chooses to reroute their passengers, they will (at Norwegian’s expense), ensure they get to their destination. This clearly covers the final LAX-SEA flight on the return because Norwegian has re-routed him to LAX but has not offered to carry him to his final destination (at their expense).

I would think this also covers the initial SEA-LAX flight cost as well.

However fortunately for Todd, there is evidence on Twitter that if he persists, Norwegian will honour their Contract of Carriage (and cover the costs) of getting him to Los Angeles on Alaska. User @EricGattenby1 said:

@Fly_Norwegian Took over 2 hours on the phone to get the return fixed (disconnected twice), but it is fixed, LGW-LAX-SEA… They booked me on @AlaskaAir to get back to SEA.

Bottom line

I’ve written very positively about Norwegian on this site, so it is a shame to see them behaving like this. I think it’s extremely unlikely Norwegian will pay for direct flights for Todd on British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, especially in premium economy. However, given the anecdotal evidence from Twitter, if he keeps persisting in a polite, patient, and firm manner, he has a very good chance of being transferred to SEA-LAX-LGW and return, on a combination of Alaska and Norwegian, at Norwegian’s expense.

I would point Norwegian to clause 11.2.3(c) of their Contract of Carriage, so they realise they are breaching the conditions they themselves set!

He may wish to reach out to Norwegian’s social media teams if he does not reach this solution with their call centre quickly — many airlines have brilliant social media teams and they may be able to resolve this faster. 

Best of luck Todd, and I hope you still enjoy your Norwegian experience. I still think they are a great airline despite your poor experience. Bring a jacket for London at New Years!

Has anyone else been affected by Norwegian cancelled flights?

Comments

  1. Norwegian’s ground services is hit or miss, even if they’re fine in the air.

    It’s like Qatar having the world’s best business class in the air, except if you ever need to call them or check any bags.

  2. Great article James!

    This customer service is garbage. It doesn’t matter how far in advance they give notice, when you book any non-refundable expense in line with your flight, you cannot simply ask the hotel to reimburse because the airline cancelled the flight. That’s pretty ridiculous on their part.

    I also see they caved to another customer. It’s just as ridiculous that customers, PAYING customers, have to argue for hours till they get lucky or give up.

    I’ve had so many bad experiences with some airlines that I do my best to avoid them, just in case something like this might happen.

    Last year at Christmas, we were flying YUL-YYZ-TLV in J on Air Canada. Tried to change YUL-YYZ to just a couple hours early to hedge against forecasted weather. AC wanted 5x the cost of a new one way YUL-YYZ in J, just to do the change from a 1pm flight to an 11am flight.

    What happened when we got to the airport? Our 1pm flight was cancelled. No compensation, nothing. By chance we got on the 12pm flight, which had seats and was delayed until 1:30PM, or we would have missed our connection.

    I’m happy the guy on twitter figured it out. But what of his lost time and frustration in this process?

  3. Email Norwegian with a statement that if they refuse to adhere to their own contract, the customer will buy a full priced ticket on a competitor and see them in small claims court.

  4. If a route is cancelled they are obliged to offer 2 options rerouting to the ticketed destination on the first available or a full refund.

    They can’t just rebook you to LAX and expect you to buy the onward ticket

    If only notified only Within 2 weeks ec261 and compensation may apply

    They don’t have to rebook you on another airline on a direct route and it’s unlikely they could due to the lack of ticketing agreements

  5. About a month ago, my partner and I were flying out of Copenhagen to NYC. I woke up at 5:00am and decided randomly to check-in to our 7:00pm flight as long as I was awake. When I got to the 2nd page of check-in, I got this tiny error message up top that said “Your flight time has changed to this date and this time…. it was an entire day after!” I went to my inbox…. no email.

    Thankfully, I immediately got on the phone and spent an hour with Norwegian customer service and they rebooked me on the ONLY flight that would get us to NYC that date via a 10:00am flight to Gatwick and 4:00pm flight to JFK.

    Sometime around 4:30PM, I got the email to my inbox. They literally sent an email at 4:30pm letting people know that a 7:00pm flight was cancelled. I, like OMAAT, have loved Norwegian but this level of customer service is a bit unsettling. I also found out on the phone that the flight was cancelled simply for being undersold.

  6. Norwegian (or their respective subsidiary who sold the flight) is an EU airline and therefore the ticket is covered by EU regulation 261/04. Even if the flight is starting in the US.

    This means Norwegian has to give the customer the choice of
    1) rebooking him on BA/VS as these are the most comparable alternative routings. If the hotline refuses he can book one of these flights himself and claim the money back afterwards.
    or alternatively
    2) covering the costs of his way from SEA to LAX if the customer prefers this routing.
    and of course
    3) full refund if the customer does not want to fly.

  7. My roommate is traveling in November and was notified earlier this week that SEA-LGW had been cancelled. He too is now flying out LAX. He called Norwegian and they happily agreed to pay for his ticket from SEA-LAX without any hassle at all. He was on hold for a while, but once he got an agent, the process took all of 5 minutes. Maybe keep trying?

  8. Actually Norway is NOT part of the European Union so I don’t know if the EU261 applies here. For flights going TO European Union countries, it only applies if the carrier is also from a European Union country, which Norway is not. Unless i’t’s one of their subsidiaries.

  9. Not sure what all the drama is about. I was in the same boat and they got everything sorted in just a few minutes on the phone. I’m now flying SEA-LAX on Alaska and onwards to London on their LAX-LGW flight.

  10. Did SeattleTodd really get a $500 Premium Ticket to LGW or was that just an example? In the absence of a mega bargain premium fare on Norwegian, why not just take the full refund and book a premium economy seat on a nonstop Virgin Atlantic flight? At least one will have a high degree of confidence they will not cancel. With his flights not scheduled until New Years, there is plenty of time left to get good seats and a decent price without the protracted struggle with Norwegian, legal or otherwise. If there is a bargain Norwegian fare that was purchased, I’d keep pursuing the SEA-LAX tickets.

  11. @ Mauricio matos ec261 covers Norway and other eea countries , Iceland , Switzerland…
    However from 2019 the UK will exit the EU and EC261 will not apply to for example , Norwegian or British Airways to/from the UK !!!

  12. @Mauricio Matos : FYI, Norway belongs to EASA, which defines the ruling (and not the EU membership).

  13. I work at a travel agency in Norway and we do not trust Norwegian with our long haul customers because they have proved over years that they are unable to help clients when flights are cancelled. Customers have to wait for a wet lease plane from Spain or Portugal to get to the US and then the crew have to rest… Many delays for 36 + hours.
    Norwegian is not a member of IATA so they do not have any agreements with any other airlines to buy tickets in irrops to an agreed fare (like most other airlines may do). So Norwegian has to buy market price for tickets on other airlines, and they are not willing to do so, history shows us. “All flights are full” the ofte say when I can see dozens of available seats in Amadeus.
    Norwegian works well if everything is OK, but is a disaster when flights are cancelled.

  14. Hi everyone, SeattleTodd here!

    First, James, thanks for such a great article.

    @Mitch Cumstein — congrats to you for getting a Norwegian rep who gave a darn. I was on the phone for over an hour just waiting for someone to answer. When she finally did, she couldn’t give a crap and just kept repeating the same old company mantra — we’ve given you plenty of notice with the schedule change, all we have to do is let you change dates, get a refund (which I was entitled to anyway since it was a Premium Flex ticket), or accept the LAX option with no subsidized travel between SEA and LAX.

    So I said screw it and booked round trip Upper Class seats on Virgin Atlantic through Delta for a fraction of the cash I paid for the Norwegian tickets ($288 per person instead of $1680 per person). Yeah, I had to burn 150K Delta miles per person, but we’ll enjoy Upper Class more than Norwegian’s Premium and at least there’s a lot less $ out of pocket. This will be way better than having to fly back and forth to LAX.

    I flew Norwegian in Economy between SEA and LGW this past February and I enjoyed it for the price and was looking forward to trying Premium… oh, well.

  15. Not sure why flights from OAk to LGW were not offered by Norwegian: a lot closer than LAX.
    I guess the bottom line is if you really need to be somewhere and travel on specific dates, don’t book with a LCC.

  16. @Icarus – that’s not quite right. All current EU legislation will be migrated wholesale into UK statute on exit. Whether or not UK flights are allowed to fly into the EU by then in another issue….

  17. @RobA In my case, I assume that’s because there aren’t flights from/to OAK (i believe they just reduced those frequencies) on one or both of the same days as my flights from/to SEA. With LAX, at least there are flights on the same dates.

  18. Can someone please explain to me why Norwegian being a low cost carrier rather than a full carrier makes any difference? Are laws different depending on how the airline describes themselves? The ticket was from Seattle to London, and Norwegian should have to find seats from origin to destination.
    In 1994 Northwest pulled out of Osaka to Sydney. I was informed promptly and offered numerous flights. I chose Ansett Australia 747 which had just started. Could have flown JAL or several other airlines.
    Todd should demand Norwegian find seats from Seattle . Lawyers could have a field day!!!!

  19. “And I don’t consider they have a legal obligation to get him there directly, but rather only from A to B, ”

    James have you even heard of EU261 & do you actually understand what rights it endows?

    Have a read of @Max Muilero’s reply – it is spot on.

    As for @Mauricio Matos – yes Norway isn’t in the EU but it is in the EEA.

    https://www.norwegian.com/uk/booking/booking-information/legal/your-passenger-rights/

    Anyone else in these comments babbling on about Norwegian’s contract need to remember that the EU regulation trumps the airline’s contract with the consumer.

  20. My understanding is that Norwegian UK-US flights are operated by Norwegian UK Ltd, which is incorporated in England (and is wholly owned by parent company Norwegian Air Shuttle).

    As a UK company it is absolutely required to comply with EU-wide compensation rules.

    And, as has been pointed out, if Brexit goes ahead in March then absolutely all existing regulations, whether derived from EU law or not, will carry on exactly as now, unless and until they are repealed.

    None of this stops LCCs from being difficult about giving customers their rights (Ryanair was famous for fighting every step of the way). But if you stick with it you will win – British courts have refused to grant airlines even an inch of leeway in meeting their obligations under these rules.

  21. If I am flying one way from Europe to the US and that gets cancelled, would I be entitled to hefty compensation per EU regulation?

  22. @ the nice Paul. Ec261 won’t apply from Brexit. I believe a revised version will come out once the UK officially leaves

  23. @ Icarus

    I live your optimism, that the govt will have time to legislate to replace 261 on Day 1 of Brexit. It simply isn’t going to happen – so the effect of the legislation will be exactky the same until it’s replaced. Which could take lifetimes to sort out.

  24. It’s bizarre EU261 got barely a mention in the post – I enjoy a lot of James posts, but there are lots of these informative posts with a lot of missing information that should be part of good advice. I guess this is the problem hiring an Australian who has only lived in the UK and London two years to give advice on things he clearly isn’t knowledgeable about (the throw away comment about voting as a commonwealth citizen in credit history in the UK post, was telling)…

  25. Also all EU laws will be adopted into British law until they are modified and repealed – so EU261 will apply for the foreseeable future…

  26. @ mkcol — your link says that compensation is not applicable if given more than 2 weeks notice of the cancellation. While the link does say there are rebooking/rerouting rights, as per some other comments on this post there is some confusion about how EU261 applies to certain countries.
    I thought it was much easier to point to the Conditions of Carriage, which are much clearer when giving advice than the complex EU261. If I was in Todd’s position I would be using that when contacting Norwegian first, rather than EU261.

  27. @James That’s correct compo isn’t applicable which is why I wasn’t suggesting it was.

    What I was saying, for clarification as you’ve clearly misunderstood what EU261 entitles you to is:
    “1) rebooking him on BA/VS as these are the most comparable alternative routings. If the hotline refuses he can book one of these flights himself and claim the money back afterwards.
    or alternatively
    2) covering the costs of his way from SEA to LAX if the customer prefers this routing.
    and of course
    3) full refund if the customer does not want to fly. ” per @Max Muilero’s reply which I’ve already cited.

    You say that you “don’t consider they have a legal obligation to get him there directly, but rather only from A to B” but you are incorrect in your consideration & need to reconsider. Irrespective of what DY’s contract says, EU261 regulations over-ride them when it is in the consumer’s favour. This is how consumer protection law works, to prevent unfair contracts being upheld.

    Just because something may seem complex (to you) does not mean it is any less valid. If you are going to dish out appropriate, relevant & correct advice then you need to read up on this. I think a good starting point for you would be the “Passenger rights” app produced by the European Union & is certainly available on the Google Play Store. I can provide the link if you require it.

  28. @James EU261 applies to all flights flying into a European airport, whether on a European airline or not. It also is more comprehensive in what it sets out including how much compensation you are entitled to depending on how late you arrive into your destination from your original scheduled timings.

  29. @Chris Randal I’m not sure where you’re based so travel insurance may cover you there, however it’s not a universally covered circumstance for UK travel policies to cover. Which again is where EU261 will assist.

  30. “Just because something may seem complex (to you) does not mean it is any less valid. If you are going to dish out appropriate, relevant & correct advice then you need to read up on this. ”

    mkcol is right above. I think these posts where you give out misinformation do you no favours – like your post about the best way to get into London from different airports, which was shockingly poor advice.

    I would say however EU261 is often patchy in how its enforced, and not all airlines will play ball, I have successfully been compensated it using it from the likes of Cathay Pacific, but a lot of airlines will simply ignore the claim – I think Air India is one of the worst offenders for doing this from MoneySavingExpert although I don’t have personal experience of this. BA has also been trying their luck a lot lately with getting away without having to meet their obligations – so not sure what the success would be with Norwegian, but in principal you do have more rights than has been asserted in this post.

  31. @ vlcnc — if you yourself say EU261 is ‘patchy in how it is enforced, a lot of airlines ignore the claim and you are not sure what the success would be with Norwegian’, wouldn’t it be ‘shockingly poor advice’ for me to tell Todd he has EU261 rights and that he should expect to receive exactly what he is entitled to?
    The point of the post per the title was what he should do, not what possible rights he might receive, but might not. He should demand Norwegian pay for the SEA-LAX flights, quoting both the twitter and Carriage of Contract references in my post as this will be the quickest and easiest way to resolve his problem.
    I’m not saying EU261 doesn’t exist, I’m saying I hope my advice is the best resolution for Todd.

  32. @James But you haven’t outlined all the options for him including crucially his rights in the eyes of the law – which is by far a more powerful argument than the conditions of carriages that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Also there is an actual proper process – you can escalate your claim, in my experience if you get an solicitor involved and a letter to the CAA and you outline your plans from the beginning of what you intend to do to the airline, they are far more likely to play ball than your rather weak idea of using the conditions of carriages.

    As usual you give your personal opinion rather than outlining all the facts and all of the options to the question. The fact is you basically didn’t know the best course of action. You don’t know or understand EU261 properly (which is shocking for someone claiming to be an expert on flying from the UK) which by the way is not as complex as you make out – you just couldn’t be bothered. Rather than admitting this you have given a very weak argument and something that far more likely to fail.

  33. My point is, when you use the laws and regulations as a basis of enforcement you are going to be fare more successful. Airlines know what their obligations are, but they will try to avoid paying out or accepting responsibility where they can – but usually when its made clear you know your rights and rules – they will do as they are meant to do. Norwegian has an obligation to get Todd from his departure location to destination, be it via LAX or otherwise, but they have that obligation. They are also liable to much how longer he is delayed from his original arrival time.

    As I said before I enjoy a lot of your contributions – but you will be called out when you give rubbish advice and misinformation. If you don’t know they answer, it is best not to answer or you could you know do your research and do a post of how you looked into this?

  34. SEA to London on BA – wasn’t that the route a 744 or 380 flight was cancelled for ‘crew’ reasons (never explained) and BA did very little to help the planeload of stranded pax? Did the mystery of why the crew could not work the plane ever get explained? I recall hearing they flew back on the empty aircraft a few days later.

  35. Hi all,
    Had an awful experience with Norwegian and hoping I can get some guidance here.
    My partner are were scheduled to fly out of Paris to NYC on June 16. They cancelled the flight two hours after the scheduled departure time (around midnight) and told everyone to go down to the booking desk and reschedule. The line was about 200 people and not moving, and they said they would email us later in the morning with re-booking info, so we checked into a hotel.
    The next day, having received no info on re-booking, we went back to the airport to check on available flights. They told us that the next available flight was the following day (so more than 48 hours after our scheduled departure). We needed to get home that day, so we asked if we could book on another airline. Yes, they said, and Norwegian will reimburse you.
    We ended up booking a flight for about $1700 on Primera (same day tickets are BRUTAL), and filed a claim upon return. I just received their response to the claim, which stated that they would refund the original ticket (about $500), but NOT the replacement flight. Either the person we spoke to in Paris lied to us, or they’re trying to play hardball.
    What recourse do we have? Is there an organization or advocacy group we can contact for litigation? I’m familiar with Airhelp and things like that, but I’d rather not give away 20% of our due compensation.
    (Btw: they did give us the mandatory 600euro dictated by EU261, so that’s not a concern)

    Thanks!

  36. My experience with Norwegian has been mixed, but getting worse as we go. We booked the Dreamliner EWR to FCO and of course, like everyone else, the Engine recall forced us on a different, wet leased plane. We were bummed, but kept an option mind. The flight over was fine, not all of the seats reclined the way that they should, but the staff was working hard to make sure everyone was comfortable. However, at 11 AM the day of our return flight we received a text message that our flight for 6 PM that night was cancelled (this was July 30 ,2018). We immediately went to the airport as well as called Norwegian while enroute. There were 12 of us, but we were willing to break into family units if need be. The earliest flight they could get us on was 4 days later and they had two seats, then they had 3 the next day and one the day after… you see where I am getting. I wasn’t splitting my family of 4 up. We had to cancel the flight and rebook on another airline with a connection, in coach at a cost of $2100+/pp!! The message from Norwegian was “Technical Issues” but they will not explain what that means and without a clear reason, our Travel Insurance will not cover the cost of the flight! I filed for a reason online to get an explanation and it has been days, so I called. I was told it takes 4 weeks to investigate and I can’t talk with Customer Relations until 4 weeks have gone by! Just nuts! I am a travel agent as well and I can tell you I will not be recommending this airline to anyone until I know that they have a better system established or they partner with another airline.

  37. Great article! Thanks to this I got Norwegian to re-book us LDN-LAX-SEA after just receiving a curt email saying our flights had changed and the flight was just going to Los Angeles. They did try to wriggle, they even suggested I could have a full refund (the prices for a late booking would have pushed the price up 4 times our original ticket price) or that that I hire a car and drive to Seattle, but persistence paid off and in the end the supervisor was gracious and accepted that they needed to accept the costs for the 2nd leg and get us to Seattle.

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