THE TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: Norwegian Airlines promised to refund my train tickets to London — it didn’t
When Norwegian Airlines cancels Andrew Brown’s flight, it rebooks him and promises to reimburse the train tickets to his final destination. Then it changes course. Is he out of luck?
Q: My family and I booked round-trip flights to England on Norwegian Airlines as part of a 10-day vacation. On the morning we were due to fly, the airline sent us a notification that our flight had been canceled because of a drone incident. Norwegian gave us a phone number to call to rebook the flights, but unfortunately, due to a heavy call volume, we were unable to get through.
We decided to drive down to the Fort Lauderdale airport, where we were to have left that evening, to speak to a representative in person.
A Norwegian Airlines representative told me that our only options would be to either get on a flight five days later, essentially cutting the vacation in half and losing a house rental and sporting tickets, or get on a flight to Paris later that evening.
If we did the Paris option, the representative told us that she could not fly us from Paris to London, but if we took the Eurostar train, we would be reimbursed for the train expenses to get from the Paris airport to London.
We opted to go via Paris; everything worked out and we had a wonderful stay in London. When we returned, we submitted our request for reimbursement for the train expenses to get from the airport in Paris to London. Our friends did the same thing. Our friends got a denial first and sent a letter to Norwegian to let them know their disappointment. Norwegian then sent them a note saying that they had reconsidered and subsequently reimbursed them.
My denial came shortly thereafter, and unfortunately, my protests were not received with the same understanding. I asked why the airline was not honoring the promised reimbursement and was told that the representative at the Fort Lauderdale airport was not authorized to offer such reimbursement. Then I asked why our friends’ request was honored and not mine, and the response was that our friend’s reimbursement was a mistake.
I feel as though the airline should honor their representative’s promise. Can you help me? — Andrew Brown, Wellington, Florida
A: Norwegian Airlines should have kept its promise. But legally, it didn’t have to.
Here’s why: The drone incident is considered an “extraordinary” circumstance, which is beyond the airline’s control. It wasn’t required to get you from Paris to London. Further complicating the issue: The Fort Lauderdale representative only made a verbal promise, not a written one. And as I’ve always said, talk is cheap. There’s no way to prove that Norwegian said it would pay for your train tickets.
The next time someone from an airline offers you something off-menu, get it in writing. If they refuse to put it on paper, at least get the full name and number of the helpful representative. That way, you can always reference the conversation when pleading your case.
I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the Norwegian Airlines customer service representatives on my consumer advocacy site. A quick, polite note to one of them might have helped.
I think it’s interesting that Norwegian reimbursed your friends, but not you, for the same itinerary change. It should have refunded you for the tickets, too, as it had promised — and for consistency’s sake. Making a U-turn was bad form.
I contacted Norwegian on your behalf. It re-examined your claim and decided to refund you $1,137, the cost of your train tickets to London.
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.