Norwegian is what feels like a new airline on the block. The first to offer ‘budget’ long haul/transatlantic flights – not quite easyJet prices but for a hop across the pond starting from at little as £149 one way, that’s pretty reasonable. I’ve looked at booking with Norwegian for a solo trip to New York that I’m planning, the only thing that held me back was the idea of flying with an airline that is sitting towards the ‘budget’ end of the scale for something longer haul. The idea of a couple of hours on a European budget airline is great, but thinking of the same thing for an 8 hour plus flight? I wanted to know a little more before I commit myself. When the invite to go and experience a fresh take on Florida, flying into Orlando with Norwegian and getting to experience their Premium section I was of course excited. When it came to covering it for the blog, I had to think about what I think would really work and be interesting. I know anyone reading my blog wouldn’t be all that interested in just seeing the pretty pictures and that’s it – you want to really know actual information to help you if you’re looking to plan your own trip.
The things I was mostly interested in for the journey leg of the trip comes down to a few ‘essential’ things for a flight. How easy is check in? What are the baggage allowances like? Are the seats comfortable? What’s the in-flight service like? Are the staff friendly?
As I said above, we were flying in the Premium section of the Norwegian flight. So of course there will be differences between this and the regular section. I did of course take a peek into economy too so I could get a feel how it compares both to premium and to other airlines I’ve flown with. I’ve never flown anything more than premium economy before myself but have done so with both BA and Virgin Atlantic so could give a decent comparison to other airline options that offer similar routes.
The check is was straight forward, with a dedicated line for premium customers. Quick and easy going. The baggage allowance with Premium is 2x 20kg (or one bag can go a little over). 20kg is a slightly lower than average weight limit (eg for economy with BA the weight limit for a bag is 23kg). One difference and the way Norwegian offer cheaper flights is that in economy, baggage isn’t included in the ticket price. This is an additional extra to add on to the booking.
A perk of being a premium passenger is that the ticket also includes premium security and access to a lounge at the airport. Which does make the transition from check in to departure gate very smooth.
Once on board the thing that struck me immediately in the premium section of the cabin is that the seat space was really significant. The seats on our aircraft (a Dreamliner, under two years old) were in a 2-3-2 formation of rows. So there is the potential ‘downside’ of a middle seat, where in other premium sections there’s usually 2-4-2 – which still offers the middle but more likely to be sitting in a way (when travelling with someone your know) that you will be next to them and the small divider areas between seats makes it feel like you have a little more personal space. The legroom tough, not that at 5ft3 I have the longest legs… but it was SO spacious. The chairs recline further than I’ve seen in premium section before. Plus they have a foot rest that pops out so you can get pretty close to a full recline, if not quite there. The best description I’ve heard of Norwegian Premium is ‘like 1960’s Business Class’, so not quite like business class today, but a step up from other Premium economy classes.
The section was quite small, only 5 or 6 rows of premium. Then maybe 20 or so rows of economy – so a fairly small aircraft in total. The premium is sectioned off from economy with it’s own toilets too – which means you’re sharing facilities with a small number of other passengers – minimum wait times a win.
The inflight service included two meals – a main one and a smaller snack. There were three food options to choose from on the main meal menu – a beef, a veg and a chicken. Then snack involved salmon on both the outbound and return leg – which makes sense for a Norwegian airline really? The food was tasty – substantial enough to satisfy, not too salty or unhealthy tasting.
The meal wasn’t the best part of the inflight service for me though. The highlight (probably of the whole flight) was the inflight ordering system. Gone are the days of pinging a light and apologetically asking for a drink from the steward. Instead they have a tablet screen for inflight entertainment – which you can also use to order drinks whenever you want them. You can also purchase snacks via the same system. The major perk of being in Premium is that all drinks are included (including alcohol if you want) and you can order as many as you want at any time. In Economy you can use the same system to order but you simply swipe your card before and then all orders are charged at the end. No need to re-swipe for each order. Very convenient and clever.
I would definitely be happy (more than happy) to fly Norwegian Premium in future. I’d also be perfectly content in the economy section if I was heading somewhere like New York where the flight is relatively short and I wanted to do a trip on a budget. I think for a longer haul flight I’d want the additional comfort levels and benefits of included luggage. I can definitely see how these more affordable flights are so family friendly so if you’re heading somewhere like Florida for a family holiday it can make sense to look at an affordable airline to get you there and then you save money for the fun and games when you arrive!
Norwegian operates a year round direct service from London Gatwick to Orlando Airport
· All flights are operated by a fleet of brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft with two cabins – Premium and economy.
· Fares start from £179 one-way in economy and £499 one-way in Premium including all taxes and charges.
To book visit www.norwegian.com/uk or call 0330 828 0854
I was a guest of Norwegian Airlines for my trip to Florida.