This Norwegian Air fare just isn’t fair

By | March 8th, 2016

Ken Johnson contacted us about something that seemed simply unfair. After visiting the Norwegian Air website and purchasing two round-trip premium economy tickets from Oakland to London for his upcoming Norwegian cruise, he experienced a bit of buyer’s remorse.

He still wants to travel. But he found a better fare — on Norwegian Air’s website.

No, not that Norwegian Air website. The other one — for Norwegian people living in Norway.

Why would anyone visit the airline’s “home country” website after already purchasing his tickets on the U.S. site?

He read about the different pricing phenomenon on a blog, which explained that airlines display different fares for the same routes in their home country. Not just different fares — better fares.

Out of curiosity, he visited the Norwegian Air site in Norway, which is identical to the U.S. site, but in Norwegian language. “It was not difficult to navigate through,” he explained, “so I entered the same parameters of our current reservation and I was shocked at the difference in price.”

Turns out Norwegian Air wants $1,300 less from passengers living in Norway for the exact same itinerary.

Given that he had already purchased the more expensive tickets, he asked Norwegian Air whether it would refund the difference. He contacted the airline’s customer service department through the site’s online chat module.

Matilda: Hi, my name is Matilda. How may I help you?

Johnson: Hello. I type slow

Matilda: Hi Kenneth! No problem

Johnson: We reserved our flight on Norwegian Air US website

Johnson: Our booking is [record locator redacted].

Johnson: I happened to run across Norway online site and checked prices. I was surprised our same flight was approximately $1297.00 USD cheaper if I would have booked it on that site.

Johnson: Is there any hope for Norwegian Air to refund some of the difference in cost?

Matilda: Your ticket is booked on our website. Did you find something cheaper on another site you mean?

Johnson: Yes I found it cheaper on your Norway web site

Johnson: I booked our on the U.S. web site

Matilda: Our prices are affected by supply and demand. Norwegian has several price ranges, and when one price range is sold out, the next will be offered. In most cases it will be best to make a reservation as early as possible. Rebooking or cancellation of seats may cause the price to decrease. Special promotions or adjustments of price ranges will also affect the price of the ticket.

Matilda: The type of ticket you have bought is not refundable.

Johnson: So I guess I am out of luck to have Norwegian Air refund any price difference

Matilda: No, any possible price difference is not refundable.

Johnson: Thank you anyway.

While the significant price difference between the two sites for the same service seems rather unfair, there is nothing illegal about it. Unfortunately for Johnson, there is no reason to expect a refund, or even a credit for a future flight.

Like all air carriers flying to, from, and within the United States, Norwegian Air observes the Department of Transportation rule allowing cancellation of ticket purchases within the first 24 hours. After that, any refund of a non-refundable ticket is at the discretion of the airline.

In recent years, airline pricing has seemed to homogenize across sites, with most all of them, including the airline itself, offering a “best price guarantee.” That reality makes this pill a bitter one to swallow, knowing the best price was actually available through the same seller, just in a different country.

In this case, I suspect Johnson doesn’t have true buyer’s remorse. He probably did get the best price he could expect to find in the United States. And without a doubt, his disappointment over the ticket price will be overshadowed by the some of the most spectacular natural scenery in the world — the fjords of Norway.

Should airlines be allowed to price their products differently by country?

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