Martha Mayakis booked business class seats on Norwegian Air Shuttle, through Travelocity. After she booked and paid, she researched the airline’s seats. She was disappointed when she discovered that Norwegian Air Shuttle business class seats are just slightly larger than its economy class seats.
As Mayakis tells the story:
I had a good experience with Travelocity in the past, so I booked a package deal with hotel and airfare from California to London, through Travelocity. I specifically opted for spending more money for business class accommodations because of the width of the seat and the comfort. I mentioned this repeatedly to the Travelocity representative at the time of booking. When I investigated the airline seating, after I had paid for the nonrefundable flight, I realized that the business class seats are just slightly larger than the economy class seats. I called, and I went to Norwegian Air Shuttle’s website, and learned that it doesn’t even offer business class seats. It offers 18-inch-wide “premium economy” seats, not 21-inch-wide business class seats. This is a big difference.
I called Travelocity and talked to agents up the chain. I was told that Travelocity wasn’t going to pay anything for me and my case was closed. I was even told that premium economy was better than business class. I asked for proof, and of course, there was none. The Travelocity agent said it fulfilled its agreement, and I could take it or leave it.
Wow. Travelocity sold a premium economy seat, but represented it as business class seat. Then it tried to convince you that the premium economy seat it had sold you was better than a business class seat.
Shame on Travelocity.
Norwegian Air Shuttle advertises itself as the “world’s best long-haul, low-cost airline.” The airline offers only two classes of seats: an economy cabin seat or a premium cabin seat. The seats in the premium cabin that Travelocity sold you differ from those in the economy cabin by 15 inches of legroom. The economy cabin seats have 31 inches of legroom, and the premium cabin seats have 46 inches. There are other amenities in the premium economy cabin, such as meals and drinks, but there doesn’t seem to be a difference in the width or recline of the seat.
There is a big difference between first, business, premium economy and economy airline seating. There are variations among airlines, and variations within an airline. A business or first class seat on one airline can differ from plane to plane. For example, a first class seat on American Airlines or Delta Airlines on a particular flight might be a fully reclining, lie-flat seat, or it may only partially recline. Seating will vary by destination and by the type of plane flown for the route.
You sent emails to Travelocity and spoke with its representatives, but it remained firm and would not refund your tickets. Our advocates contacted Travelocity on your behalf, but it refused to acknowledge that it sold you premium economy seats that it represented as business class. Travelocity’s rationale was that there is no standard definition of business class. It took the position that business class simply means “service and amenities between coach and first class.” That may be true, but Travelocity’s position assumes that there is a first class. If Norwegian Air Shuttle doesn’t offer first class, what “service and amenities between coach and first class” is Travelocity selling?
Travelocity also asserted that there is no standard seat width for a business class seat. And that a comparison of seats among various long-haul airlines shows some business class seats from 18 to 20 inches in width. The SeatGuru.com comparison chart Travelocity relied upon to justify its refusal to refund Mayakis is a helpful tool. But it is notable that Norwegian Air Shuttle isn’t listed on the business class comparison chart Travelocity cited, presumably because Norwegian Air Shuttle doesn’t represent its premium cabin seat as a business class seat. Travelocity ignored the fact that Norwegian Air Shuttle wouldn’t be included on a long-haul business class comparison chart, because it doesn’t sell a business class service.
Travelocity’s rationale is flawed, and its treatment of Mayakis is a cautionary tale for all travelers. The “good experience” Mayakis had with Travelocity in the past is, well, in the past. The only way to understand exactly what type of seat is being purchased is to research the actual flight and type of plane being flown on the route, on the individual airline’s website. The airline website should identify the width, degree of incline and legroom of the various seats on the actual plane that is expected to be flown. In addition, using the SeatGuru.com comparison chart and reading the passenger reviews of various seats before booking is helpful. Do your homework before you book, and don’t rely on an online agency, which is Travelocity in Mayakis’ case, to do the research for you.
We were unable to help Mayakis obtain a refund and have no choice but to dismiss her case.