On June 29th, Norwegian became the first European airline to receive the new, state of the art, Boeing 737MAX. The new 737 variant boasts a reduced fuel consumption of 14% from the B737NG. While Norwegian made the headlines by becoming the first European airline to receive the aircraft, they also made the noteworthy decision to operate it on transatlantic flights during the high season. I flew onboard EI-FYA, the first of the MAX aircraft to be received, on flight D81600 on August 25th from Edinburgh to New York Stewart Airport to see what all the fuss was about.
The aircraft is set up with 189 standard economy seats in 32 rows of a 3-3 configuration. The seat chosen by Norwegian is the ultra-thin Recaro Leather seat, the same as that on their -800 models. This is a seat Jet2 also use. The effect of using this slim, leather seat is more legroom and a lighter aircraft.
LED mood lighting is also in use on this aircraft which is used to improve passenger ‘comfort and ambience’. The aircraft offers three extra seats on the front port side compared to some of the 737-800 models. Each seat offers 29-31” of pitch and 17.2” of width. These measurements are nothing major to brag about for Norwegian as they are up to 2 inches smaller than the measurements on the 787. The exit row seats have a much more generous 38” of pitch and are located in rows 15 and 16. I was sat in seat 16A.
The aircraft is fitted with 2 CFM International LEAP-1B engines. These engines are designed to increase efficiency and reduce fuel consumption. They are fitted with chevrons, similar to those on the 787, to reduce engine noise.
The MAX has two galleys, one at the front and one at the rear and includes three lavatories.
One of the most modern elements of the B737MAX is the cockpit. The flight deck boasts huge screens with higher levels of automation than any other 737 before it.
After arrival in Edinburgh I was taken on a ramp tour by Norwegian’s ground staff, Swissport. The tour was an amazing way of viewing the new MAX up close and I was really impressed with the way Norwegian have kept the aircraft looking so brand new. The tour took me inside the aircraft, too. I was able to get cabin shots and cockpit shots before heading back to the gate and boarding as a normal passenger.
Boarding began once the aircraft had been turned around from its short hop to Oslo during the day. My seat for the flight was 16A, an exit row seat, and I was really impressed with the comfort and legroom offered. Doors shut 15 minutes later and we pushed back, on time, at 17.15. We took off on runway 24R from Edinburgh and I was amazed at the small amount of noise the aircraft produced on the takeoff run. After takeoff from EDI we banked right and began our initial cruise at 33,000ft over the north of Scotland to the Southern tip of Greenland before ascending to 38,000ft for approach into the US and Canada.
Only after landing could I look at our flightpath for the day. I would have liked to see Norwegian introduce a flight map on the overhead screens.
We were looked after fantastically by the four cabin crew members who went above and beyond to meet our needs throughout the flight. I am really happy I had the opportunity to meet them. A special thank you to Eilidh and Kevin who went above and beyond to make sure we were happy during the flight.
My ticket included a ‘Nice and Tasty Meal’ which was served at 18.30 and consisted of a choice between chicken or beef. I chose the chicken. The meal consisted of a piece of chicken on rice with a peas and sweetcorn side, a small pot of pasta and for dessert, a Belgian chocolate square. I was really impressed with the food I was served and would definitely recommend it. The meal comes with one drink of your choice, too. It will cost you £25 to add this meal to your ticket. Other buy on board meals include sandwiches at $7 and salads at $9.
We landed at Stewart International at 19.40 local time to conclude a flight of 7 hours and 10 minutes.
So, what exactly does a passenger do for 7 hours? Norwegian aim to provide complimentary wifi on their 737MAX aircraft within a year, but for now, it is non-existent. While the framework for internet connectivity is in place, final preparation needs to be completed. The aircraft provides no IFE apart from a few screens above the seats. On the 737-800 product, seats are fitted with headphone jacks to tune into the audio on the screens but the MAX isn’t equipped with this. This raises the question of the necessity of them. Without Wifi, passengers should download their own entertainment before flying and maybe load up a portable charger, too. The seats aren’t equipped with any AC or USB power ports so a full battery is needed to take you across the Atlantic. Passengers are, also, not given any blankets or pillows for the flight. I, however, didn’t find this a problem as temperature and comfort didn’t were not an issue.
If you’re looking for a comfortable ride across the Atlantic, then choosing the exit row seat is very important. The extra legroom under the seat in front results in quite a comfortable ride and space to stretch your legs. The legroom offered on a normal seat is, as you might expect, on the small side. With less legroom than the larger 787 models, you are likely to feel the limited space over the 7 hour flight. You can choose your own seat for a price of £25 on the cheapest ‘lowfare’ ticket and I would definitely suggest that. At no extra cost than a normal seat, you can sit in the exit row or front of the aircraft and enjoy much more comfort.
We landed at SWF’s gate number 1 and were led through into the first ever airport I have witnessed where you reclaim your baggage before getting through security. Being last off the aircraft meant that we had a slight queue getting out of the airport but nonetheless, were outside 40 minutes after touchdown at 20.40. This is a huge selling point for both Norwegian and Stewart. With so few flights it is almost unlikely you’ll be held up for anymore than 30 minutes after arriving on stand. Until the arrival of Norwegian, Stewart handled only domestic traffic. For this reason, measures have had to be taken to establish a sterile area where international arrivals can be cleared. This requires the erecting of a screen to block access into the landside departures area. You can read more about this in my upcoming article on Stewart Airport.
Norwegian have to be praised for the product they are offering. They have opened up transatlantic travel to people that, before, could never afford it.
How have they done it?
By using modern, efficient, aircraft, they are cutting the fuel costs by up to 14% from the older 737NGs. They mix this with flying into smaller airports where landing fees are a fraction of that of bigger, more popular airports (ie: JFK and EWR). The final money saver is a model that lets passengers choose the products they want to add to their ticket. By not offering complimentary food and drinks, seat selection or hold luggage, passengers have to pay for what they need.
This model means that getting to the East Coast can be as affordable as a train journey from London to Manchester and is opening up the market to people that could, previously, never afford the privilege.
By flying on Norwegian’s 737max to the East Coast, you aren’t going to receive a service comparable to other airlines in regards to complimentary amenities. But you also aren’t going to pay anywhere near what you’d pay other airlines. Norwegian offers a no-frills service that is cheap – very cheap, and for this reason they have to be congratulated
I had a very enjoyable flight with Norwegian on the MAX and I am really impressed with the business model they have created, that lets more people than ever before fly transatlantic, and hope to see a lot of you do it in the future.
disclaimer: this trip was provided by Norwegian Air