Cotton Hill shares a story about Norwegian that’s downright sad. He had purchased two roundtrip tickets for his honeymoon just before the start of the pandemic. The happy couple had planned to fly New York to Paris, and back from Barcelona in August 2020.
Naturally they didn’t take the trip, with Covid-19 raging and travel to Europe banned for most Americans. Norwegian even cancelled their flights as service was scaled back and the carrier fought to survive.
Hill was lucky – since his flights were actually cancelled he was entitled to a refund. And unlike in Europe where enforcement is toothless, and Canada where the government sided with airlines against consumers, the U.S. has been clear that airlines that do not provide the product they sold cannot keep a customer’s money. Hill had two options,
- A full refund in cash
- Points in Norwegian’s revenue-based loyalty program (effectively a voucher) for the full value of their tickets plus 20%
At the beginning of the pandemic I flagged Norwegian’s chances of survival as low. Anyone reading this blog would have known take the cash. While most airline miles are safe, Norwegian’s didn’t seem as rock solid.
For most, however, Hill’s logic seemed impeccable at the time: “Seeing as how we are still planning to take the same honeymoon once things get back to normal, we selected the reward points credit.” It seemed like 20% more in free money!
However Norwegian has now liquidated its transatlantic business. They’ll no longer be flying long haul at all. They’re trying to make a go of intra-European flying with the help of the Norwegian government.
So where does that leave our honeymooners? As Americans with $4000 in credit with an airline that only plans to fly hops within Europe. He took to the internet for advice.
- A credit card dispute seems an unlikely avenue of success. While it’s past the time that a card company has to consider a dispute, it’s still within a year so they might evaluate the case. However they opted to take points in lieu of a refund, they were given points with a 20% bonus, and they still have those points.
- They could sue, arguing that an implied condition of accepting the offer was that the points could be used towards transatlantic travel. But aside from all of the legal objections to this, Norwegian no longer even operates a U.S. business….
Copyright william87 / 123RF Stock Photo
I am an advocate of following the rules of a program that you’ve agreed to, and I counsel against selling points and miles because the risks involved generally aren’t worth it (cancelled tickets, shut down accounts, ban from the airline).
In the case of a carrier that shut down its transatlantic operation, that a customer doesn’t intend to fly again, I’m not so sure that taking a haircut on the value of these points to get something out of them isn’t the worst strategy. What do you think?