Honeymoon Couple Gets Stuck With $4000 in Vouchers After Norwegian Drops Transatlantic Flying

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,

  1. A full refund in cash

  2. 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?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. If they have no intention of flying the airline ever again I’d sell them and if it becomes a lifetime ban so be it. I have millions of unused air miles on American that I intend to burn off as I switch to either Delta or United. Selling them isn’t worth the risk.

  2. Never take points from an airline, even a voucher during these times unless it’s a Flag Carrier that will get propped up.

    Sucks for them, but they chose the points, they could have taken a refund.

    Norwegian should offer them a 50% refund, or they can keep the points.

  3. I guess they could do an open jaw yo Europe and “splurge” on flights all over Europe using those reward points.

  4. Steps:
    a) try to sell the miles. irrelevant if they get banned since they will probably never fly Norwegian
    b) if A is not successful, go through the credit card company. Try everything, throw the kitchen sink at it. This probably won’t work but have had experiences with Amex platinum where they have been helpful and gotten me refunds after 30 days.
    c) sue. It should still be possible to file a US lawsuit since Norwegian was doing business in the US at the time of the transaction. Though I can’t vouch that this will be successful, since as Gary points out the customers are technically still receiving *a* voucher

  5. I rather like one writer’s suggestion of somehow getting to Europe and then flying around using the points. It avoids any legal action and doesn’t entail fighting with credit card companies. It almost sounds like a win win. But, lesson learned I bet.

  6. Complain on every social media they have with public comments tagging the airline. Hashtag on twitter, post to wall on facebook, etc. The bad PR of a loud online customer is probably not worth it to the airline. Emphasized ruined honeymoon, cancelled flights. They may have one of their social media team message and offer a resolution. Companies like this spend millions on online marketing and staff so a couple grand to make something right might be worth it to them. The more traction this story gains the less sense it makes for the airline to accept the negative PR over a couple grand.

  7. The graphic implies they may be paper vouchers (like American used to issue up until recently). If this is the true case, I would attempt to sell them online on Facebook Marketplace or something for 20% off…

    If they’re not paper, at least still try the same idea. There has to be someone who will value these at 20%, 30%, or even 40% off the value. I know it is probably against the Terms, but they also closed down the TATL business, so everything is on the table.

  8. They should have taken the refund. They tried to parlay it into a “gain” and that came with a risk if they thought our potential pandemic outcomes for the business. Had a refund now don’t. Tough break but thay passed on it first time around.

  9. I think Visa uses the dates of travel for chargebacks. At least, that is what Chase told me while I was trying to challenge MSC charges. Doing a chargeback may still be possible.

  10. “And unlike in Europe where enforcement is toothless”

    That has to be the most ignorant statement I’ve ever heard. The EU laws against airlines is probably some of the most strict / consumer friendly that exist. You don’t fly, you don’t pay. You get delayed, you get paid out for your time. I had a single $100 inter-Europe flight delayed for 4 hours and was paid $400 per passenger for the waste of our time. Go look up EC 261/2004 before spouting such BS.

  11. @Nabe – the EU declared that cancelled flights during the pandemic should be refunded and the airlines ignored it.

    I’ve written much on EC 261/2004. Look at what actually happened in 2020.

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