Low cost air travel , it’s enough to strike fear into the most seasoned traveller, I mean no one wants to travel low cost, unfortunately it’s a case of having to for most of us, if we want to be able afford a long haul break away.
But that was then, now it’s positively trendy to go low cost , and thus the rise of Norwegian was born. Voted best low cost operator in Europe for the past 3 years in a row , CEO Bjorn Kjos had his eye on a bigger prize , the coveted transatlantic routes and in 2013 Norwegian launched their first low cost long haul route, and Norwegian now serve seven US cities soon to be eight with the latest route Gatwick – Las Vegas due to start on the 31st October 16
Now over 2.2 million transatlantic passengers later, and us Brits can finally enjoy and more importantly afford that cheeky weekend in New York for less than £400 return. But what’s it like ? surely for that price your packed in like a sardine , clinging to the wing with only a packet of peanuts for your 7 hour flight.
Here’s my Norwegian in flight experience on one of their longest flights of 11 hrs , from London Gatwick to Oakland California, in both economy & up front in premium class.
Firstly, here is the essential fare information, Norwegian has 4 fare categories.
This is the basic fare, it gets you an economy seat & 10kg of hand luggage with 31 inches of legroom.
Low Fare Plus
This is the enhanced basic fare with a few extras in addition to the Low Fare, that you would usually expect to be included on a traditional carrier, such as, 20 kg of checked luggage, all meals on board , plus a drinks service, including alcohol. It also includes free seat reservation when booking.
Booking a seat in premium gets you in the front 5 rows in a separate cabin of just 32 seats. The seats are bigger, more legroom at a whooping 46 inches, plus reclining seats. You also get increased checked baggage allowance of 2 pieces x 20kgs each , fast track entry through airport security and in some places there’s even lounge access. All meals & drinks are included through out the flight.
If your plans are likely to change, getting a flex ticket allows you free changes or cancellation at no charge, though tickets are more expensive. Flex tickets are available in both cabins and also include meals, 2 pieces of checked baggage up to 20kg of checked luggage , fast track thru airport security and seat reservation.
If there’s seats available in premium , it is possible to upgrade your low fare ticket at the airport from £250 each way.
The economy cabin is split into 2 on the 787-800 , rows 6-23 in the main cabin and rows 24 -35 in the rear , the seat configuration is 3-3-3 .
If you can’t nab the bulkhead seats in row 6 or 24 , and you don’t mind being at the back, rows 34/35 have a seat missing between them, so there’s a bit more room but you are on top of the toilets, so there’s a trade off. I’d advise choosing a seat in the rear cabin, purely as there’s less people, which equals less noise, and you’ll get served quicker by the crew.
I’m 5ft 7 , and though I’m not particularly tall, leg room on long flights is always a concern. Whilst there wasn’t much to spare, thankfully my knees weren’t jammed into the seat in front and I was able to stretch out ish .
I was beyond ecstatic to see there was a USB port in my seat , which as a I phone user always in need of power , it kept everything nicely charged up during the long flight. You will need to bring your own headphones or you’ll have to buy a pair on board for £5, it’s a normal headphone plug so standard headphones will fit.
The one area I was disappointed was the entertainment offering, there was only a merge 10 ‘new movies ‘ on offer to choose from , and they were the same on my way back too, a week later. There were some classic movies and tv series available, but not really enough choice for a long flight. Luckily I always load up things to watch on my BBC iplayer / Amazon app before I travel, so I’d advise you to do the same.
If you opt for low fare plus, food is included , there was 2 servings on this flight , dinner was served within an hour of take off .
Dinner was sweet & sour chicken , with a cous cous side and a chocolate pudding. I’m not the biggest fan of plane food , it was pretty bland , but it was edible and it filled me up . The highlight was naturally the chocolate pudding ….
The 2nd food serving was approx 2 hours before landing , and was more of a packed snack, I could have easily eaten 2 of these to be honest, I was wondering if I got a child’s snack by mistake, not really enough to fill an grown adult in my opinion.
If you opt for the Low fare option , as well as bringing your own food ( highly reccommended ), you can purchase food from the on board snack bar , though it only opens after the food service has finished, and it’s for limited times, so if your starving, you might be in for a bit of a wait.
It’s important to note, they don’t accept cash on the flight , it’s card only. You swipe your card on your tv screen at your seat, and then your order is brought to you in a matter of minutes.
For the AV geeks they had some pretty cool maps & flight info to follow during the flight, if that’s your thing.
Economy – The Verdict
I’ll be honest, I was dreading this flight , 11 hrs in economy is not my idea of a fun time , but I really noticed the difference, the larger windows and the higher ceilings inside the cabin helped with not feeling quite so crammed in.
The lower flying altitude of the Dreamliner also helped with the jetlag , and I arrived in Oakland in almost perfect condition.
Unsurprisingly I was really looking forward to this leg of the trip, the Premium cabin is in the front 5 rows of the plane in a 2-3-2 configuration.
Upon boarding, your offered a non alcoholic drink, and after take off the curtain is pulled across from the main cabin behind. There are two toilets at the front exclusively for the premium cabin, so no waiting in long lines for the toilet.
You get a blanket to use during the flight and free headphones are offered ( to keep). For this flight I was sitting in seat 3C , I’d keep away from the dreaded seat E in the middle section at all costs unless your travelling in a three.
The legroom is stated to be 46 inches , this actually bigger than every other airlines premium economy offering, where the standard leg room is 38inches. Even with my legs stretched out, I didn’t quite manage to touch the seat in front, and there was plenty of wiggle room in the actual seat also.
The seat does recline and there’s a foot rest , whilst it’s not flat, it’s was perfectly good enough to get a good night sleep, though I found the foot rest a bit annoying so I left it flipped up for the flight.
As soon as we were in the air the crew came round with the drink trolley , with the usual wine and sprits on offer. I’m not a big wine drinker but I believe there was a couple of decent white & reds to choose from.
In premium, food is included in the ticket, there was the same two services as in economy, but the food was significantly better.
I was served beef with polenta & green beans and mushrooms , and it was actually very tasty, so much so I finished the lot. There was a delicious coleslaw side and another chocolate cake for dessert, But I got so carried away I ate them before remembering I should have taken a picture!!.
As it was a night flight, the second meal serving was breakfast.
Breakfast consisted of a lovely warmed bagel , with smoked salmon , capers and cream cheese, which was a build yourself job, which was preferable to coming ready made. It was served with juice and tea or coffee and was perfectly adequate.
The entertainment was sadly the same as in economy , and the film choices hadn’t changed since my outbound flight a week earlier .
Premium – The Verdict
For me booking a premium ticket is really all about the extra space. As someone who was lucky enough to have travelled long haul in BA’s Club World cabin for a number of years , I would pitch Norwegians premium class in terms of space offered, between Premium Economy & Business class for a fraction of the price. Yes they don’t have all the bells and whistles of a traditional carrier, but you have to remember, it’s all these thing push up the ticket price.
If you book well in advance it’s possible to get a Premium return for less than a £1,000 , which is granted still a lot of money for effectively a plane seat, but on a long haul flight, I would definitely consider buying a premium ticket on a night flight to ensure a decent nights sleep.
Norwegian has only been flying long haul for 3 years and I’m sure that service in both cabin will improve with time , but so far they have already been voted the best low cost long haul operator by Skytrax for 2015, so I can’t wait to see what they come up next , I just hope that the ticket prices stay affordable.
Low cost fares to the US start from £135 one way from LGW to Boston, for more info regarding routes and pricing check out their website http://www.norwegian.com
Please note, whilst I did not receive any payment , my ticket to Oakland was kindly provided on a complementary basis by Norwegian in order to write this review , but as usual, all opinions are mine.