We need to know if we have a realistic claim against Norwegian Airways, to which we paid £2,676 for flights to America which are no longer possible to take.
In August 2019, having saved up for years, we bought flights to Florida for a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Disneyland. Covid hit and the airline cancelled.
At the time, we were persuaded to take “points” rather than a cash refund, and told these could be used to rebook. In December 2020, we booked new Norwegian flights to Florida, paying a cash top-up.
However, a month later Norwegian announced it would no longer be flying to the US, and the flight was cancelled. The points were returned to our rewards account, and the small cash sum refunded.
Since then, I have been trying to get the airline to refund the cost of the original flights, but to no avail. When I agreed to take the points, it was on the understanding they would be used to buy new US flights.
The points expire on 22 December this year. Can you offer us any hope?
KD, by email
In March 2020, when the airlines started cancelling flights, Guardian Money was strongly advising readers to hold out for cash refunds, often in the face of refusals by the airlines which were determined to offer vouchers instead.
The biggest problem is that Norwegian Air UK – the bit of the company that sold you the original flight – has gone into liquidation, and is no longer flying to the US.
Unusually, its parent firm, Norwegian Air Shuttle, is still honouring the rewards programme which, in effect, holds yours – and countless others’ – credit. It’s doing this to retain some goodwill.
The company told me that when you agreed to take the points you, in effect, entered a new contract, and it is for this reason that it cannot give you a cash refund.
Coby Benson, a flight lawyer at Bott and Co, describes the case as a “sad set of circumstances and a cautionary tale regarding accepting an airline’s vouchers”.
As a result of the liquidation, he says, there is little prospect of a refund. He suggests contacting your credit card company, but you paid by debit card.
I have come up with one possible solution, though. If you decide the points are worthless to you, there is nothing to stop you using them to book other people on Norwegian flights, and coming to a financial arrangement with them behind the scenes. Norwegian has confirmed the booker doesn’t have to fly.
It must be worth a try.
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