Norwegian: Transatlantic Game Changers?

Gone are the days where your only options to fly from the United Kingdom to the United States and Canada were dominated by the likes of British Airways and American Airlines.  Despite the fantastic service and benefits that these airlines offer throughout your flight, not everyone wants to or can afford to pay the price this comes at. The good news is they no longer have to. Why? The low cost carriers are coming…

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve given our opinion on Primera Air and WOW Air’s chances of cracking the transatlantic air travel market. This week we look at the already established Norwegian and their hopes of making themselves known as the go to airline for flying across the pond. If you haven’t already checked out the articles on WOW Air and Primera Air, be sure to do so before reading the conclusion!

Norwegian Dreamliner LN-LNB seen here taxiing after maintenance in Birmingham

NORWEGIAN.

uk and ireland departures from: london (lgw), edinburgh (edi), belfast (bfs), dublin (dub), shannon (snn) & cork (ork).
CONNECTING VIA: NONE, ALL FLIGHTS DIRECT!
FLYING TO: AUSTIN (AUS), BOSTON (BOS/PVD), CHICAGO (ORD), DENVER (DEN), FORT LAUDERDALE (FLL), ORLANDO (MCO), LAS VEGAS (LAS), LOS ANGELES (LAX), NEW YORK (JFK/SWF), OAKLAND (OAK), SEATTLE (SEA) & CONNECTICUT (BDL).

 

Norwegian really have set the standard for budget transatlantic air travel. Operating the brand new Boeing 737 Max 8 from Irish and Scottish regional airports; whilst also operating the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Gatwick to a combined total of 14 US airports, I guess you could say they have claimed this sector of the market for their own. Operating the state of the art Dreamliner, an aircraft that is quite frankly something out of your wildest dreams (Get the pun? Too cringey? Okay, I’ll stop, I promise…), this already puts them ahead of their would be competitors WOW and Primera.

The Lowfare option is Norwegian’s basic fare that can be booked. It includes 10kgs of cabin baggage and includes a standard economy seat with 31″ of legroom on both Boeing 737 and 787 aircraft. Optional extras such as seat selection or In flight meals are charged at a premium.

Premium seating on board one of Norwegian’s Dreamliners

Lowfare+ is the next available ticket option to purchase with Norwegian. This fare will see travelers able to check in one 20kg piece of baggage free of charge and the on board meal service from the Nice&Tasty Menu is also free of charge. Seat selection is offered complimentary, this will see passengers allowed to pick any seat on the aircraft, including exit row seats!

Norwegian’s Premium cabin has won some raving reviews including that of LondonSpotter’s very own Raj Stevenson! (You can read his in depth review of this cabin here!). Premium passengers have a whole range of extras made available to them for free when purchasing their tickets. This includes Fast Track Security and Lounge access in the departure airport. When on board a fantastic 55″ of legroom will greet travelers, as will the complimentary food and drink offered by the airlines friendly cabin crew.  Two bags both weighing 20kgs can be checked in on this ticket type.

The airline understands that sometimes travel plans have to change last minute. This is why they offer their Flex and PremiumFlex fares at the time of booking. Both of these come with the benefits of their respective travel classes, but allow the ticket holder to change their booking or request a refund for the cost of the ticket free of charge. All other passengers must pay amendment fees if wanting to change their itinerary and refunds are not available to them.

FLYING DIRECT?

The fantastic versatility of the Boeing 737 Max 8 and 787 Dreamliner allow Norwegian to fly direct to all of their Transatlantic destinations. This already puts them ahead of market competitor WOW Air as passengers flying with WOW have to transit in Keflavik before reaching the USA and Canada. Flying direct on the Max 8 will offer passengers an experience that most likely they will have not had before. Equipped with engines specially designed to reduce fuel consumption making the aircraft more efficient to fly, they also feature chevrons that reduce the noise emitted from the engine. Single aisle aircraft making the flight across the Atlantic is becoming more and more common and it opens up the USA to smaller regional airports that simply do not have the capacity to handle a wide body aircraft.

Norwegian offer direct Transatlantic flights on the Boeing 737 Max 8

WHY FLY NORWEGIAN?

Much like Primera, flying direct is a key selling point. Flying direct and all year round from smaller regional airports such as Shannon and Cork has opened up the USA to people who before were having to travel to Dublin or wait for airlines to start their seasonal schedules. The airline does also fly from UK bases that have existing Transatlantic routes, so what makes them stand out against the crowd? The flexibility to pick and choose what you want included in the price you pay is a key selling point. Not everyone wants to travel with checked baggage or lounge access or quite simply, not everyone wants to pay the sometimes extremely high ticket prices that carriers charge.

In terms of the on board experience, it is surprisingly luxurious for a low cost airline. Norwegian are beginning to role out WiFi on their 737MAX fleet to join the -800 fleet. On the Dreamliner, seat back entertainment systems are offered, this allows passengers to access the latest in film, TV shows and even allows passengers to order drinks to be delivered to them from the comfort of their own seat (something which I am a massive fan of personally!). Mobile devices and other similar gadgets can be charged through the USB port offered in the seat back IFE screen.

An example of the economy meal service on board

The on board meal choices a full meal service is offered if your ticket includes it in the price. The airline caters for all taste buds including the fussiest of eaters – kids! A cold starter is offered along with a meat or fish main option served with a range of accompaniments. To finish a sweet treat is offered along with a hot drink. For children a special meal that guarantees to satisfy the pickiest of eaters if offered and if they finish it all, a chocolate cake may be waiting for them! Between meal services a snack bar is open, these options must be paid for by card as the airline is cashless.

The benefits of flying Norwegian seem appealing, but the most important factor of them all that impacts anyone’s decision of who to fly with is the price. The airline offers some fantastic fares such as Shannon to Providence (for Boston) starts from just £97.40 one way. For any Scottish readers planning on taking a trip to the Big Apple, Edinburgh to Stewart (for New York) can be reached from just £136.60 one way. To see how these fares compare against a competitor such as British Airways, we will compare how both airlines shape up when tasked with flying to Las Vegas. The British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Las Vegas will set travelers back £685.61 when travelling in the World Traveler cabin. This gives passengers 23kgs of checked baggage and free seat selection 24 hours prior to departure. Norwegian from London Gatwick to Las Vegas will cost £420.30, a total saving of £265.31! This is travelling economy on the Lowfare+ ticket, giving passengers 20kgs of checked  baggage and free seat selection at the time of booking. Unless you’re a British Airways super fan, I think it will be Norwegian flying you to the Sin City!

Could carriers such as British Airways be forced to change their pricing strategies due to airlines such as Norwegian?

SUMMARY

Having been around for sometime now, Norwegian have made a name for themselves as the airline that offers cheap air fares but cuts no corners on what they offer. The ability to select individually what you want to pay for when booking is fantastic in my opinion, as people can often end up paying for things that they just don’t want or need. Operating the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a key selling point for the airline, especially when compared to the Airbus aircraft that Primera and WOW are flying. One failure that I have picked out is the fact that they do not offer any routes to Canada. I believe that this would be very popular, especially from airports served by the Max 8 such as Cork and Belfast.

The modern flight deck of the Boeing 737 Max 8

CONCLUSION.

Over the past three weeks WOW Air, Primera Air and Norwegian have been reviewed on the way that they are looking to or changing the way we look at flying Transatlantic. For me writing this, It has been difficult to decide who I think will crack the market and establish themselves as the go to budget carrier. I was torn between two airlines but ultimately, I have come to the conclusion that Norwegian are the Transatlantic game changers! Already being established as a long haul carrier has shown that what they do, they do well. Opening up the United States to Cork and Belfast has saved travelers both time and money when it comes to flying across the pond. As I mentioned earlier, the absence of Canadian destinations disappointed me but hopefully the decision makers at Norwegian reading this will add a Toronto or Vancouver to the schedule soon!

Primera Air were a close second, flying direct from Birmingham and Stansted appealed to me as they are airports that currently lack a direct service to the USA. Much like Norwegian the ability to be flexible with what you choose to include on your ticket is a great help to anyone looking for a cheap getaway to New York or Boston. However, with the airline not yet flying from the UK, it’s very hard to predict if they can deliver the high expectations that I have for them. WOW Air come third as unfortunately the services on offer from the two direct carriers just don’t justify adding the extra time onto your journey when travelling via Keflavik. The sometimes lengthy connection times between services could be a hindrance to travelers.

Be sure to visit Norwegian’s website to take advantage of some amazing low fares.

 

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