THE TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: Where’s my WOW Air compensation?
QUESTION: My daughter and I traveled from Toronto to Paris in April 2017. Our return flight was with WOW Air. The night before our return to Canada, I received an email from the airline saying that the plane that was to return us to Canada had been in a mishap.
It was a plane that carried 350 people. WOW replaced the aircraft with one that could carry only 220 people. The airline said that if anyone chose to go to Toronto another way, it would refund the cost of the flight and give us each 400 euros to compensate us for the hassle.
I had to be at work the following day. My daughter and I emailed the airline to say that we would take it up on its offer, and we booked another flight on another airline and went home on the day we were scheduled to fly back.
WOW Air refunded the cost of the return flight promptly. The airline asked me to file a request for the promised compensation, which I did. WOW Air indicated that there would be a wait of eight to 10 weeks. Five months later, I received an email stating that the airline had processed my claim and that my daughter and I could receive 500 euros each if I took the offer in the form of a flight credit or 400 euros each in a cash settlement. We opted for the cash settlement.
It’s been over a year since WOW promised the money. This seems very unfair. There is no way to communicate directly with someone at the office. I would like the 800 euros that was promised to us by WOW Air. Can you help me? — Robert Weinper, Shelburne, Canada
ANSWER: WOW should have paid you and your daughter each the 400 euros at the same time it refunded your airfare. A delay of this length is inexcusable.
Let’s back up a little. Your return flight to Paris experienced a “mishap,” but WOW replaced it with a different aircraft — in airline lingo, an “equipment change.” In doing so, it went from a larger aircraft to a smaller one. That meant WOW Air had too many passengers.
Interestingly, since your flight originated in Europe, it’s subject to a consumer law called EU 261 (https://www.elliott.org/frequently-asked-questions-about-eu261/). WOW Air seems to have completely glossed over that little detail. Had you waited and allowed WOW Air to bump you from your flight against your will, you might have received an even more generous compensation.
But you took the WOW Air compensation offer, so this issue comes down to the agreement between you and the airline, not EU 261. You had that deal in writing, but it appears that the airline was noncommittal about the timeline for reimbursing you.
One way to speed things up is by contacting a supervisor. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the WOW Air customer-service executives on my consumer-advocacy site: https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/wow-air/.
As I reviewed the paper trail between you and the airline, I saw no reason for this delay. You were entitled to immediate WOW Air compensation. I contacted the airline on your behalf, and it paid you the 800 euros it had promised.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at email@example.com.