My fight with Norwegian Air is not done. I’ve been trying for months to get the compensation I was entitled to for a delay of nearly five hours on a flight from New York to London last year — and now that the airline has denied my claim for refund, I have enlisted AirHelp to get me the money. The case is clear-cut: European Union rules say that if you are delayed more than four hours when flying into the EU on a European carrier, you are entitled to up to 600 euros (~$682) in compensation, among other rights.
The flight in question happened last August, when I flew Norwegian’s inaugural A380 flight from New York (JFK) to London (LGW). Not that Norwegian actually flies Airbus A380s: this was an airplane leased by the airline to cover for its Boeing 787s, which had been grounded by engine trouble.
To minimize disruptions to its schedule while its Dreamliners were not flying, Norwegian wet-leased planes from various charter companies. Among them was Hi Fly’s Airbus A380, which used to belong to Singapore Airlines. Since the plane still sports its original interior, including first-class suites, the equipment swap should have been a huge treat for passengers.
In reality, however, it wasn’t quite that. Since JFK’s Terminal 1 wasn’t able to accommodate another superjumbo during the flight’s scheduled time and the airline initially neglected to proactively adjust the departure, on the first four days of the special service every one of Norwegian’s A380 flights was delayed by at least three hours. Mine departed a whopping 4 hours and 47 minutes late.
So I made a claim for compensation under EU261. The return flight from London to JFK was delayed too, and Norwegian rejected my claim for that one — and never responded to the claim for the JFK to London segment. Since I still felt that I had a valid case, rather than give up I decided to use AirHelp — a company that assists travelers trying to recoup compensation from airlines. Submitting my claims through the company was much easier than when I initially filed them on my own. There’s no upfront fee, but a service fee (25%) and potential legal action fee (additional 25%) if my case is approved.
Under EU Regulation 261/2004, airlines don’t need to pay compensation when the delays are caused by extraordinary circumstances, such as bad weather and air traffic control strikes. In this case, though, the A380 flights were delayed due to a gate shortage at JFK, which the airline knew about in advance.
Since that would mean that the delay was within the airline’s control, I submitted a claim for compensation as soon as I returned home — for both my outbound and inbound flights.
Six months later, I finally have a verdict for one of my claims. Norwegian will not provide compensation for my flight from JFK to London Gatwick (LGW) that was delayed by nearly five hours, because the delay was due to bad weather. According to what AirHelp told me about it, “On that day 60% of all flights at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York were disrupted (…) The airlines had to cancel or delay the flights for passengers’ safety due to thunderstorms with rain and winds, gusting to 48 km/h, at New York John F. Kennedy International Airport.”
I’ve confirmed with Weather Underground, a website that provides weather history, that there was no rain on August 3, the day my flight was scheduled to depart. Still, I decided to take my losses and not fight it.
What’s more interesting is the status of my second claim, for my return flight from LGW to JFK. Norwegian once again rejected that claim when AirHelp filed it. However, AirHelp’s legal team determined that the airline didn’t have proper grounds and is now taking legal action against the airline.
If I win, I will get ~$682 in compensation minus ~$341 in legal and service fees. Although steep, I don’t mind the fees too much considering that AirHelp does all of the legwork and I won’t lose any money if I lose my case.
AirHelp says that the average processing time for a case like mine is about 107 days, so stay tuned!
Featured photo by jcheris / Getty Images
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