Traveling is not always a dance on roses. Not everything goes as smoothly as you’d probably wish when traveling. For us it happened in Helsinki in the beginning of May this year when we were preparing for our return flight with Norwegian to Stockholm.
A couple of hours before departure we received an text message from Norwegian Air Shuttle telling us that our flight had been canceled. So after a great weekend in Helsinki we were in quite a rush to find a solution to get back home in time for work on Monday. As it was impossible to get hold of Norwegian on the phone at the time, we had to go to the airport to sort the matter.
Our Options According to Norwegian
As the Norwegian website did not give us sufficient information (in our opinion), we decided to go to the airport and let them find a way for us to get back home. We were quite lucky and there was no queue at the well-hidden service center at Helsinki Airport. And even better, the girl behind the desk was really friendly and helpful. She was probably an employee of the airport and not Norwegian, but she tried to assist with most of our problems. We were told that the flight had been canceled because of staff shortage on the previous flight from Stockholm to Helsinki.
So what options did we receive? These were the two options we could choose between:
- We could be rescheduled on the next flight to Stockholm. Actually Norwegian has several daily flights between the two capitals, but they were all sold out. This meant that the option was to fly early the next morning to Copenhagen and from there to Stockholm.
- We could be refunded the price of the tickets and purchase new tickets with for example Finnair or SAS.
Considering the fact that the cost of the new tickets would be considerably more expensive than the ones that we already had we felt forced to accept the flight the next day. This option meant that we would arrive in Stockholm at around 10 AM. In other words, we were to land 14 hours later than expected.
So we got a voucher for a hotel room and dinner at a hotel in Vantaa, the city just next to the airport. Our evening was nice. We had a walk around in the area and enjoyed a hamburger for dinner.
In the morning we took the free shuttle bus back to the airport and got on our first flight to Copenhagen. We were not the only ones heading in the wrong direction that morning as we flew past Sweden and landed in Denmark. There it was only a short wait before the second flight and we were soon back on Swedish soil. By this time we were in a hurry to minimize the time we were delayed for work.
Once back home from work that evening we contacted Norwegian to claim a compensation for the canceled flight. This is in line with the EU Regulation 261/2004 that sets common rules for all European airlines.
According to the regulation and because our distance of flying was under 1500 km we would in the event of a delay of more than 2 hours or a canceled flight be eligible to a compensation of 250 Euros per person. This is normal procedure in cases where the cause of the delay or the cancellation is within the control of the airline. We considered that our delay had been within the control of Norwegian. Why? Because staff shortage tends to be an issue dealt by the employer. As far as we are concerned, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that there is enough staff at any workplace.
It took almost a month before Norwegian replied to our claim. Their answer was that the delay had not been within their control and that the cause of the canceled flight was sickness. They rejected our claim without further explanation or proof. This didn’t cause us to give up our claim, so we contacted the Swedish Consumer Agency (Konsumentverket in Swedish). As we flew from Helsinki they almost at once forwarded our request to their Finnish counterpart (Kuluttajariitalautakunta). We needed to send some more information to Finland. A few days later we received an e-mail from Norwegian stating that they have reviewed our case a second time and that they only needed our bank account number to make the transfer of the money. They had also added the Finnish Consumer Agency on copy. Thus we assume that the Finnish Consumer Agency had contacted Norwegian regarding the case.
Result and Conclusion
Almost 3 months after the canceled flight I saw that we had received a transaction from Norwegian of 500 Euros.
So, why complain in cases like this one?
In our opinion it should make an economic impact for the airlines to cancel flights. As long as the EU regulations are followed we think it makes a blow to the airlines. Now, we are lucky enough to have understanding employers, but usually people count to be somewhere on a Monday. It could have been an important meeting, a funeral, a wedding. Anything like that. Consumer rights exist for a reason, and consumers also need to stand up for each other.
We suspect that these issues apply to most airlines. They will try to reject most claims and hope that people will just accept their response. If you feel that cause of the delay is within the control of the airline and they do not provide a good explanation, don’t give up! Continue with your claim, take it to the next instance. Some countries do have a Consumer Agency that will assist you for free.
We think that it is sad that Norwegian seems to have such large problems with canceled flights at the moment. The airline has really good prices and destinations from Stockholm. Because we no longer trust them, we will try to avoid them until they seem to be back in control. And until they have enough staff for their flights! Hopefully the management will try to improve the situation. We want to add that the all the people we talked to were nice and helpful. This applies to the staff at the airport and the Norwegian Customer Relations Team.
Do you want to read more about your passenger rights? This is what the European Union has to say on the matter >>
Have you ever had your flight canceled or delayed? What did you do?