Hey United, I Want My $158+ Back

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We finally made it home from our first trip of 2014 to Oslo, Norway. We had a great time and really enjoyed the city, even with its sky-high prices.

A couple of days back I wrote how we were Stuck In Oslo Thanks To An Approaching Winter Storm. Our flight was cancelled due to a snow storm forecasted for the NYC area. While some flights made it into Newark-Liberty Airport, United went ahead and pre-emptively cancelled ours.

In my post about being stuck in Oslo, I forgot to mention something pretty important. While on the phone with United customer service, I asked about accommodations and who was responsible. The representative was very short with me (code for rude) and said that we were responsible. Her response was something like well it’s not like we wanted to cancel the flight and not get everybody home.

I knew that in the U.S. airlines are not responsible for cancellations due to weather and didn’t think much more about it. I agreed to hold as she booked us on the next flight and
began to make plans so we could make the best of our (costly) additional day.

After coming back from another day spent wandering around the city, I had a few comments on my post related to United offering us compensation and/ or a hotel for the night.

My friend Rene of Delta Points started off the comments by saying- May want to see about getting some funds back! He also left a link to a site for EU Passenger Rights. I read over the rules hoping that I was indeed owed compensation in the form of our hotel stay. After reading the rules, to me it seemed as though the  EU, like the US did not make airlines provide compensation due to bad weather.

Fast forward to the following morning at the airport.

We’re going through the security screening and we started chatting with a lady travelling with her 8 month old daughter.  I helped her get her stroller off of the conveyor belt and we learned that she was also heading back to Newark. She mentioned that she should’ve flown home the day before but got delayed due to the storm. She also went on to tell us how United was nice enough to put her up in a hotel right by the airport and give her money for meals.

I was beyond surprised since I was told by United (over the phone) that we weren’t owed anything due to it being a weather cancellation. We parted ways and I started thinking about e-mailing United when we got home.

After going through Passport Control there was a short line for another security screening before we proceeded to our gate. The gentleman in front of me turned and said (pointing to our stroller) boy do I not miss traveling with one of those. I said how it could be a pain but really wasn’t bad since we could store whatever we needed etc… We chatted for quite some time and he then mentioned that his flight was cancelled yesterday and that United had put him up in a hotel!

Whoa, wait a minute! Why were we told that compensation was not owed to us?

The common denominator with my 2 fellow stranded passengers was that they went to the airport while I called.

Now I knew that I had to contact United and try to recoup what we spent for our room.

About 15 minutes before boarding, the man I was chatting with pointed to a United employee and told me that that was the supervisor that had helped him out.

I went over to the supervisor and explained the situation. He told me that had we showed up at the airport our hotel and food would’ve been covered for the day. He said that this is the rule due to the EU 261 Policy. He then said had we been Norwegian citizens he would’ve reimbursed us but that I would have to send in an e-mail to United. We chatted a bit more and I learned that he was the only United supervisor and 1 of only 2 employees they have in the whole airport. The rest of United’s staff is provided by a handling company.

So now it’s time to write to the airline and see where it gets me.

Did we make a mistake by not heading to the airport? Kim and I thought that we did the right thing by calling and immediately taking care of our situation.

Stay tuned…

14 thoughts on “Hey United, I Want My $158+ Back

  1. I just sent my letter over to United after getting stranded in Central America with no compensation (although I too found out the following day that some people had been provided with airport hotel accommodation). Waiting to hear back. Hope both of our situations work out 🙂

  2. You mean you don’t buy your airline tickets with a credit card that provides trip delay/interruption insurance?!

  3. Mommy Points- Thanks for the vote of confidence in the decision we made! Kim and I also think we did the right thing. Hopefully United follows the rules of EU 261!

    Mike- and what is it that you are “Just sayin”?

    Hasse- Thanks for that link! While we enjoyed our extra time, it was still a costly day.

  4. Just to throw this in there, with kids you absolutely did the right thing by just calling. I wouldn’t head to the airport with the whole family with me just to potentially get a free hotel night (unless perhaps I was already right next to the airport).

    I would have done exactly what you did and make the most of the extra day away. That said, I have my fingers crossed for you with United!

  5. While compensation might not be due because of weather delays, airlines are still responsible for providing care to passangers in such situations – accommodation, meals and transportation included. The law also doesn’t discriminate alien nationalities.

  6. Thanks for the comments. Like stated above, while Norway is not part of the EU, they still follow the EU Air Passengers Rights rules.

    I also did not think that we qualified but according to the rules and what we were told by the United supervisor in Oslo, we do.

  7. @Mario. You are right, but I believe that Norway adopts many of the rules of the EU although it’s not a member. See http://www.eu-norway.org/eu

    My casual observation is that the weather loophone in EU261 seems only to be invoked by EU airlines when the departing airport is closed because of weather, and not often then. I’ve never heard of it invoked when the airline has simply not bothered to fly a plane to the departing airport – although I know that US airlines tend to put that down to weather.

    1. You’re correct Norway is not a member of the EU but we are a member of the European Economic Area, which gives us access to the EU’s inner market, and we are therefore a part of the EU when it comes to these types of issues.

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