Their would-be trip to the “Happiest Place On Earth” turned unhappy following a bad experience with Norwegian, one family says.
Norway Today spoke to reader Mrs. Eleanor McPhail, from London, England. She is a cardiac physiologist at the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). She has been performing cardiac diagnostic tests for patients throughout the pandemic.
Stress relief turned root of stress
Looking for a break from what was an exceptionally stressful year, Mrs. McPhail and her family booked a family trip to the “Happiest Place On Earth.” But according to them, the family’s travels from England to Disney World didn’t go as planned.
“We saved long and hard for this holiday together as a family of three generations, and feel our money has been stolen from us. This has come especially hard after working throughout the pandemic in often challenging circumstances,” Mrs. McPhail explained.
The family’s experience with Norwegian occurred before the news broke about the airline’s leadership team controversially receiving hefty bonuses.
“I was shocked to read your article New details: Norwegian’s top officials received 11 million kroner each through secret bonuses,” Mrs. Mcphail told us, adding that “they paid these significant bonuses to the greedy board of a failing airline instead of looking after their customers and paying their staff.”
Full refund not an option
This is the story as told by the family.
“We booked flights for a dream family holiday for nine people to Disney World Florida at a cost of approximately GBP 8400 for December 2020. The flight time was brought forward by three hours in July 2020, and in September we were offered to rebook.
“At this point, we asked if we waited and they canceled the flight, whether we would be entitled to a full refund. We were told that because of the flight time change, we would only be entitled to a cashpoint refund – effectively a voucher via their rewards system. The terms and conditions actually state that this only happens if the flight time change is by five hours, so this was a deliberate and deceitful attempt from the company to keep our money.
“Based on this advice, we rebooked for May 2021, and subsequently all long-haul services were stopped in Jan 2021. Therefore, we were given 96k cashpoints.
“They have now changed their terms and conditions. You have to now pay GBP 100 to redeem 500 cashpoints. You can only redeem 10,000 cashpoints a month. And all cashpoints expire in 18 months.
“So, we have to pay a total of GBP 19,334 in 10 different transactions over the next 18 months to have any chance of using our tied-up money. This is without adding the current restrictions to travel into the mix.
“This is absolutely disgusting. We were given the wrong advice and should have been entitled to a refund if they canceled the flight. Now, they are demanding we pay more money to redeem our refund, which could be seen as extortion.”
“I have never been asked to pay extra to use a refund ‘voucher'”
As for whether the family might ever try to use the cashpoints, Mrs. McPhail said:
“We have no plans to use the cashpoints. When we called the company in September 2020, we were misled and forced to make the decision between rebooking the flights for a later date or take cashpoints. Under the advice and terms and conditions stated at this point, they said we could rebook the US flights whenever we wanted – so no blackout dates or fees associated with rebooking a service up to the same value.
“We opted to rebook flights to Florida for May 2021 as we were told we were not entitled to a cash refund – despite a flight time change of only 3 hours. They have now subsequently changed their T&Cs, as they no longer provide US flights or allow you to use the cashpoints as full payment of services.
“They are treating the refunds in cashpoints as a reward-based system which is totally unacceptable. I have never been asked to pay extra to use a refund ‘voucher’.
“They have made it practically impossible for us to claim our money back – even if we wanted to spend the cashpoints. To reclaim our money of GBP 8400, we have to book over 10 different transactions on a low-budget airline within the next 18 months – currently only flying to Norway, Denmark, or Sweden from London. The most expensive flight is currently GBP 82 a head, so we would have to book 330 seats on flights over the next 18 months at a further cost of nearly GBP 20k to reclaim our GBP 8400.”
“We have sent numerous emails and phone calls but are unable to get through to a representative. We have since sent a letter via the post to see if we can get a reply from them regarding the handling of our case. They have previously rejected our claim and said we agreed to take the cashpoints which is incorrect.”
Mrs. Mcphail added, “We are one of the thousands of customers who have lost significant money to this money-grabbing company.
“I would just like your readers to be aware of the risks involved if they book with Norwegian.”
Norwegian’s side of the story
A spokesperson for Norwegian told Norway Today the airline’s contrasting point of view.
“The information that the customer has provided you with does not match our own records. Firstly our records show that the customer did choose to cancel the flight, which at that time was operating, on September 20, 2020.
“The schedule change being under 5 hours does not mean they would not get a refund if the flight was canceled, it just means that once they accepted the change, they could not change the flight time further for free. I have seen from our customer relations notes in the booking that this was explained to them. They were also informed at that time that the flight was still active and would not be refunded as per our terms and conditions, this is in line with industry practice whereby full refunds to the original form of payment on restricted tickets are only provided if the airline cancels the flight. However, at that time they chose to cancel anyway and accepted CashPoints.
“When submitting a claim for travel credit in CashPoints, the customer is informed and agrees that they understand that the request is binding, and once submitted, the cost for the entire booking for all passengers will be converted to travel credit as CashPoints.
“The terms and conditions concerning CashPoints clearly state that they cannot be paid out in cash at a later date. Norwegian Reward also reserves the right to determine the number of CashPoints that may be used as partial payment at any time. Examples of this include a maximum CashPoint redemption limit or a minimum amount paid in another form of payment other than CashPoints.”
Mrs. McPhail, though, maintained, “we didn’t cancel anything. We followed their advice that we would not be entitled to a monetary refund due to the three-hour flight time change regardless if they canceled the flight or not. As per this advice, we rescheduled the flight. We later found out this was incorrect advice as their T&C’s state the flight has to be changed by more than 5 hours.”
Disclaimer: The information in the article was received from the reader during June and July of 2021. Travel details are always subject to change and treatment on a case-by-case basis. If you’re planning to book, or have booked, air travel and have concerns, reach out to the airline directly.
Source: #Norway Today, #NorwayTodayTravel
Do you have a news tip for Norway Today? We want to hear it. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org