Travel from the US to Europe (and vice versa) has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Where fares under $500 round-trip in coach used to be a shocker, a $400 fare almost seems ho-hum in the face of some of the fares we consistently see. The products being offered are changing as well.
Airlines like Norwegian Air specialize in moving LOTS of people from point A to point B. They’re not really a hub and spoke airline, though they do have a ton of flights in and out of Oslo. But, you’ll find nonstop service from cities like Oslo, London, Dublin and Cork to places like New York (JFK and, soon to be Stewart), Miami, and soon planes like Denver and Seattle.
Most of the seats on those routes are coach seats (189 of them on the new 737 MAX I got to fly a few weeks ago). However, one of the best-kept secrets is Norwegian Air’s Premium option. It’s a REALLY affordable option for a premium product on the trans-Atlantic market. But, how premium is it? I got to answer that question on my way back from Oslo.
The folks at Norwegian were nice enough to let me board my 787 Dreamliner flight from Oslo to JFK a few minutes early to sneak some pictures of the cabin before everyone boarded. As an aside, I just can’t get enough of the 787. It’s such a great plane for long-distance flights. From my first trip on the Boston-Tokyo Japan Airlines inaugural a few years back I could notice the difference from the lower pressure and humidification of the cabin.
I had fun taking pictures of the rainbow lighting effects in the cabin. The effect is pretty cool, as you can see from the quick time lapse video I took.
They also invited me to run up to the cockpit and crew rest areas. The pilots were very open with their time. They both had a ton of experience, flying 737, 747, 777 and obviously 787 aircraft in their careers. Martin and Steve were unbelievable with their time. They talked about the plane and our route for the day, and then our captain, Steve did something I RARELY see in the US (read, can’t ever recall seeing something like this before).
There was a young lady that appeared to be traveling with her father. She was distraught. At first, I thought it might have been a bereavement situation. It turned out she was really nervous to fly. The longer she was on the plane, the worse it got for her. I certainly felt bad for her, that’s a tough spot to be in. The captain came out to talk to her. When it was clear she was having a tough time, he took her out onto the jet bridge hoping that might help her calm down a bit.
Given his other responsibilities, he took a great deal of time trying to help her get comfortable with the thought of flying. Ultimately, she just couldn’t wrap her arms around it. But, Steve’s actions were very notable to me. He took time to connect with her as a person, not just as a passenger. Tell me the last time you saw that on a flight?
That carried over in his pre-flight announcements and in the attitude of the crew. If there was one refrain throughout the flight, it’s that the crew made this one of the most pleasurable flights I’ve had in quite some time.
The seat is a recliner-style premium seat. A friend of mine likened it to the Virgin America first class seat. I’ve only flown that product a few times, quite a few years ago, but I’d say he’s right. It’s definitely better than the old recliner seats that American Airlines/US Airways had on their 757s. I don’t actually know if all of those are gone, but I sure hope so.
The seat reclines a decent amount. It’s not lie-flat and falls short of what we used to call “angled-flat”. But, it’s a comfortable seat for an 8-hour flight across the pond. Each seat in the cabin has a full footrest attached to the seat. I don’t have a ton of Premium Economy flying experience, but that makes a huge difference. I’ve flown the British Airways previous generation Premium Economy product a handful of times and really hated the little footrest that folded down from the seat in front of me.
The seat comes equipped with a standard universal electrical outlet. The seat has an in-flight entertainment system that’s stored in the armrest. That IFE has a USB charging outlet which came in awful handy. Side note, every seat on the plane comes with IFE, including the entire economy cabin.
Each passenger is given a comforter for sleeping. There are no pillows, pajamas or amenity kits. The comforter is similar to the ones I’ve seen on trans-continental premium cabins in the US. I feel like the kid who apologizes to the teacher with a lame excuse, but I think my camera ate the picture I took of the comforter. It was similar to the comforters I’ve gotten on transcon flights in the US on American or United (prior to the really big service upgrades by both of those airlines). The only drawback to the recliner-style seat is that it can make it tough to sleep on your side. Other than that, I was perfectly comfortable for the entire ride.
The crew was quickly in the cabin after take-off to begin beverage service. The wine choices weren’t Dom and Krug, which was to be expected. But, I wasn’t offended by the selections, especially when I consider the price point for a typical premium seat on a long-haul flight. I hadn’t tried this specific sparkling wine before but it worked just fine, better than a decent handful I’ve had on flights in the past.
First Meal Service
I was given three choices for my main meal option. There was a turkey breast option with vegetables and a bed of quinoa. The second choice was shrimp over manicotti and the final choice was a beef short rib. They all sounded appetizing. I asked the crew what their choice would be. They voted for the turkey and short rib. I went with the turkey and was perfectly satisfied. As you can see from the pictures, it wasn’t served on china and I didn’t get a cloth napkin. If those service elements are important for you, Norwegian probably won’t be adding them anytime soon.
Honestly, I didn’t enjoy my meal any less because it came in a box. Most airline food isn’t stupendous. Framing it up on a pretty plate doesn’t make it taste better. It certainly was a bit foreign at first to have food in a box when sitting in a premium cabin. Again, perspective on price paid helps here, not to mention a pretty good chocolate mousse cake with the turkey.
Shortly after the dinner service they brought around cognac and Bailey’s.
Second Meal Service
Then, not long before landing, we received a second meal service. This one was probably better than the first one. I had a really good piece of salmon, some roasted potatoes and avocado along with a piece of Brie. Since our flight was scheduled to land at 9:30, I thought this was really smart catering. The food quality was really good (awesome piece of salmon) and served as a great light snack.
The crew encouraged all of us to order drinks from the IFE system if we needed something while they were busy with other duties. I definitely like this sort of option. The IFE also contains a full menu of snacks you can purchase onboard. The pricing is reasonable and, again, the food quality looked quite good. I paid just over $8 USD for a sandwich prior to boarding. Norwegian was selling a similar sandwich for $7 USD.
Browsing the in-flight menu:
Holy cow, the crew. This is only my third Norwegian flight. I was on the inaugural Caribbean service they launched to Martinique in 2015 and the 737 MAX delivery flight a few weeks ago. I found both of those crews entertaining and efficient. But, those were “one-off” flights, if you will.
Every member of the crew I came in contact with had a great attitude. To be clear, this wasn’t just to me. You could argue that they knew who I was since the folks from corporate communications got me onboard early. But, I watched them throughout the premium cabin. Their service was warm and efficient throughout the flight. They were consistently in the cabin asking if they could offer drinks or snacks. And, I saw the crew cleaning the lavatories more than once.
The Final Two Pennies
Full disclosure for the cynics, I didn’t pay for my flight home. It was part of the delivery flight. However, I am planning to make a donation to UNICEF, a charity that’s a big part of Norwegian Air’s ethos.
The premium experience on Norwegian exceeded my expectations. Starting with fast track security clearance out of Oslo, the experience was pretty seamless. The flight boarded on-time and efficiently. The meals were all way more than adequate. And, the crew was truly special. Ashley and Christopher were the primary folks in the premium cabin and took good care of the 30-ish passengers quite well. The closest thing to a “complaint” I could come up with is that folks might find it a bit tough to sleep in the recliner-style seat on a redeye.
Let’s go through the “nots” real quick. Norwegian premium is not:
- A lie-flat seat
- Meals on fine china
- Expensive bottles of champagne
- Mattress pad, pajamas and pillows
It’s that last detail that I keep coming back to. For what many people pay to buy a coach ticket to Europe, you can enjoy a much more comfortable experience. It surprised me, and it might surprise you. However, I doubt it will disappoint you.
The post My Review Of The Norwegian Air 787 Premium Cabin was published first on Pizza In Motion