I was lucky, others weren’t. When Norwegian Air cancelled three trans-Atlantic flights on the same Friday, following a series of similar cancellations all in the same week, they put us all on a Belfast flight, promising to bus the Cork, Shannon and Dublin passengers to their respective airports. I was returning from a business trip with a weekend to spare when I received their cancellation text on my way to the airport. Others had special events in their diaries, which they may or may not been able to attend, jet-lagged or not.
After listening to horror story after horror story sitting in the Providence airport – people spending two nights in Providence airport hotels, others losing several days at the beginning of their holidays the previous week – I think I’ve figured out Norwegian’s flight-filling strategy: confirm, then cancel, consolidate and keep your mouth shut. Spending the better part of a day on a bus from Belfast to Cork is not my idea of an on-time arrival in Cork. And that was after nearly two hours spent in Belfast collecting luggage and learning that Norwegian’s ground personnel knew about as much as we did regarding the buses taking people to Cork, Dublin and Shannon. We know this because we were able to listen to their side of a series of phone conversations with their superiors – after the airline had more than a day to organize things. The UK’s local customs and immigration staff occasionally broke their stiff upper lips when they asked us how long we planned to stay in Northern Ireland and most of us replied “an hour or two”.
When everyone had collected their luggage and our ground transport arrived, the Belfast ground staff was attentive and courteous as they walked us from the terminal to three waiting buses. Those of us bound for Cork filled up two of them and Dublin-bound passengers were assigned the third bus. Imagine how the jet-lagged Shannon-bound passengers must have felt, standing alone in a parking lot while Norwegian’s staff resumed their intense phone conversations. Things appeared to be sorted out when they were put on the Dublin bus, which would take them to Shannon after a stop at DUB. We travelled in convoy to a motorway rest stop near the Dublin airport, where we changed drivers and lost another half hour.
My take on the fiasco? Norwegian has never planned to continue Cork and Shannon flights. They’re straw men to enable them to get valuable Dublin landing slots. At their earliest opportunity they’ll announce that there isn’t enough trans-Atlantic traffic to justify them and focus their efforts on Dublin. I’m congenitally overcommitted and don’t want to waste any more time on the airline. But I’d appreciate someone doing some homework. While I doubt if we can discover the airline’s load factors, I’d love to see how many of the scheduled flights by #FlyNorwegian actually departed or arrived at their designated airports.
By the way, their EU-mandated compensation is arriving as quickly as their flights did. I’m still waiting for mine.
I guess we get what we pay for – and you won’t find me on another discount Norwegian flight again.