Flying from Europe to the USA has always been one of those things you only do once per decade due to the prohibitive cost of flights and until recently, only full service carriers flew the route. But with the advent of airlines such as WOW Air out of Iceland, flying between Europe and the USA doesn’t have to expensive anymore.
I recently flew Norwegian Airlines from Oslo (OSL) to Los Angeles (LAX) in one of their brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliners and learned that cheap doesn’t have to be nasty.
I bought my wife’s ticket for this flight 3 months before departure for a mere €186 (US$205). She has a perfectly sized carry on bag and because Norwegian are so generous with their hand luggage weights, it easily fit within the cabin baggage limits.
I on the other hand have a beast of a backpack which always has to be checked. And on Norwegian, this is the beginning of where you get stung. I bought my ticket 2 months before departure for €265 (US$296) which is still an absolute bargain. This included a €33 (US$37) fee for checked baggage. They also offer free meals onboard for an extra €33 (US$37) and seat selection for a further €33 (US$37)??? You can bundle these 3 addons for an extra fee of €66 (US$74) which is a little steep in my view. In the end, I chose not to preorder meals or seating and everything worked out fine.
Norwegian Airlines Boeing 787
By now, everyone knows that the Boeing 787 is a state of the art aircraft with large windows which don’t have window shades – rather, adjustable dimmers.But the problem with the 787 is that airlines love to pack passengers in like sardines even more than they usually do. The legroom I had was more than adequate and I’m 5″11′ (181cm). But it’s the fact that airlines including Norwegian insist on a 9 abreast seating configuration when 8 abreast is ideal for economy cabins. The means seats and arm rests are extremely narrow. I’m a normal sized guy. Maybe on the light side of things. But when I sit next to another man on a 787, my shoulders touch his. This is torture on long haul because you’re constantly fighting for shoulder space. Luckily for me on this flight to LAX, the guy next to me was short with narrow shoulders. I actually felt comfortable for the entire flight! But your luck certainly can vary. If you’re next to a big person or you yourself are big, this will be a nightmare flight.Each seat has an entertainment unit which also serves as your online shop for the snack bar.
There was a reasonable selection of recent movies as well as documentaries, TV shows and classic movies. The games selection is as it is on every other airline these days. Sudoku, backgammon and chess.But the interesting part about the entertainment system is the snack bar. You simple scroll through the list of items they have for sale, pick what you want and scan your credit card. About 5 minutes later a hostess will deliver your order to your seat. I’m sure they get lots of orders this way.
You can even keep track of all your orders during the flight.
The selection of snacks went way beyond what I had expect and prices weren’t too bad and certainly cheaper than much of what’s available in Oslo airport. Tip: eat on the plane, not at Oslo Airport.
A large selection of spirits, liqueurs and wines are available plus some beers, soft drinks and water. As a general rule, non-alcoholic drinks (330ml) were US$3.50, spirits (50ml) US$8, beer (330ml) US$6, coffee/tea US$4 and wine (187ml) US$7. That’s pretty reasonable in my book. Of course if you want to get smashed on the plane, it’s going to cost you a lot.Snacks included muffins for US$4, Pringles US$3.50, hot snacks (like a panini) for US$7, vegetarian sandwiches US$7, chocolate bar US$2.50, salad US$9 and noodle pot for US$4. Again, not cheap, but not so bad if you got a great deal on the flight. And besides, if you want cheap, you simply bring your own food and don’t buy theirs.
And on that note, I wanted to comment on how much food you’re going to need for this 10hour flight. For two people, I brought along with me 2 massive sandwiches, a packet of chips, a block of chocolate, 2 cheese rolls, 2 apple pies, a bottle of water, 2 bananas and a muffin. Let me tell you, it was enough. I could have left off the apple pies and cheese rolls and had been fine. But we ate them anyway so we didn’t have to declare them on arrival at LAX.One last comment on the aircraft itself. I don’t think there are enough toilets onboard. There was a line for the toilets for the entire flight. The red light indicating the toilets were occupied never went green. It’s really odd because I’d never seen that before. Ah well, if you’re desperate, you just have to wait 15 minutes in line. And maybe you need to stretch your legs anyway.
The flight touched down in LAX on time and without and dramas. Truth be told, this flight was so much more enjoyable than I had expected. We got seated together even though we didn’t pay for seats. We were never hungry despite not paying for meals. And our hand luggage had no trouble getting on board because of the Norwegian hang luggage limit of 10kg plus a small handbag or laptop bag.
So while long haul low cost carriers such as Air Asia can be a nightmare, Norwegian Air really show everyone how it should be done. I’d happily fly them again if the price discount was big enough compared to full service carriers. Because at the end of the day, many full service carriers feel almost the same once on board. Especially so called 5 star carriers such as Qatar who I also flew recently and who also have a 9 abreast seating configuration on Boeing 787s.
Buy your tickets early and get a great deal! Check prices now on Norwegian.com