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Flight Review: Norwegian Air Intra-European 737-800 OSL-ARN

by on July 19, 2014 · 7 comments

in Low Cost Carriers, Norwegian Air, Reviews, TPG Contributors, Trip Reports

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During his recent round-the-world trip, TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen traveled throughout Scandinavia and got to take a flight on European upstart airline Norwegian Air. Here’s his review of the experience.

One of Norwegian's 737-800's at OSL.

One of Norwegian’s 737-800′s at OSL.

Although my round-the-world award included business class flights on EVA, Singapore and SAS, one of the flights I was most interested to take was a short hop from Oslo to Stockholm on Norwegian Air. The Scandinavian low-cost carrier has been making waves on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to game-changing low fares from the US to Europe, as well as to various destinations within Europe itself. Though the airline is for budget-minded travelers and doesn’t offer a ton of frills, it has been getting positive reviews for its new planes – which include 737’s and 787’s – free onboard WiFi and friendly service. So when I was looking at options for flying from Oslo to Stockholm at the tail end of my trip, I went looking for Norwegian Air flights first.

Fare Differences

As with a lot of low-cost carriers (and all airlines for that matter), fares can vary dramatically on Norwegian Air, even to the same destination on the same day. On this particular route, which is about 35 minutes in the air, airfares ranged from $52.20 to $213.50 for the date I wanted to fly.

Fares can vary a lot.

Fares can vary widely.

The flight I needed was at 5:00 pm, and a LowFare ticket cost $113.50 including taxes. I ended up spending another $12 on checked luggage and $7 for paying with a credit card. My total came to $132.50. There was also an option to reserve a seat as well, which is usually bundled with the baggage fee for an extra $5, but I figured I could sit for half an hour in a middle seat if I had to, so I skipped it.

I had to book through Norwegian’s site, since the airline is not supported on OTA’s like Orbitz or Travelocity.

You can tack on bags and seat selection for an extra $17.

You can tack on bags and seat selection for an extra $17.

Checking In

That turned out to be a good idea, since the flight was not at all full, and when I checked in for my flight at the airport about 90 minutes in advance, I had my choice of seats for free.

Norwegian has kiosks at the airport in Oslo where you check in, and print out your boarding pass and luggage tag if you’re checking a bag. You then take your bag and the tag to the conveyor belt yourself, scan the bag tag, and weigh the bag.

That $12 luggage fee I paid got me 20.9kg (about 45lbs). My suitcase weighed in at 22kg, so the system told me to go to the check-in counter and talk to a representative. Luckily there was an agent on hand; she made me take a couple things out of my suitcase and stuff them in my carry-on, then move the bag to the next conveyor station, re-scan and re-weigh it, and voila, the bag was off.

I then made my way past security and walked about 10 minutes down the terminal to my gate. Like many European airports, Oslo’s has small gate areas separated from the main terminal by a glass wall. My gate opened about 45 minutes before departure and quickly filled up with people, but I was able to snag a seat.

Boarding the plane.

Boarding the plane.

The Flight

Boarding started about 20 minutes before departure time with rows 16-32 boarded first, followed by rows 1-15. I was in row 10, so I waited until the very end to get onboard, and found only a half-full plane. I made my way to my seat and found that my row had two other people in it, so as soon as the plane door closed, I moved back a row and had it all to myself.

Stepping into the cabin.

Stepping into the cabin.

Norwegian doesn’t have business class, and while Norwegian’s 787’s have a Premium Economy section up front, the 737-800’s like the one I was flying have only economy seats in a 3 x 3 configuration, with 186 seats total. At 17.2 inches wide and with just 29 inches in pitch, that can be a pretty tight squeeze for some.

I was fine, but the seats can be a tight fit.

I was fine, but the seats can be a tight fit.

I’m 5’8” and had enough legroom, but there’s no way TPG would fit in one of these seats; taller passengers would have to snag the bulkhead or exit row or be out of luck. The 787 seats are the same width, but have 31-32 inches of pitch.

I had a row all to myself.

I had a row all to myself.

One of the things that intrigued me about Norwegian is that the airline offers free WiFi on its flights (when available). That probably means slow connection times as everyone signs on, but I was still hoping to try out the service. Unfortunately, my flight was not WiFi equipped.

No WiFi on my flight, but Norwegian lists the flights with it available.

No WiFi on my flight, but Norwegian lists the flights where it’s available.

That was not a surprise, since Norwegian does a good job during the booking process of letting you know which flights will be equipped with WiFi, and you can check your flight status and find out as well. Still, I was disappointed.

I was also disappointed that there are no individual seatback entertainment systems. Instead, there are overhead monitors that showed the safety video and then episodes of Looney Tunes during the flight, so I just read my book instead.

The flight was short and I didn’t see a flight attendant the whole time. There was no beverage service or anything. I was not that surprised given the airline’s low-cost reputation, and the flight attendants were friendly during boarding and deplaning, but this definitely felt more like a commuter bus ride than a plane trip.

Just overhead screens for entertainment.

Just overhead screens for entertainment.

The plane was quite new and had nice, large windows, plenty of overhead space, cool mood lighting, and was very clean. And the flight was on time, so I was pretty content. I just wish I had brought a bottle of water with me so I would have had something to drink!

Earning Points

Unfortunately, Norwegian Air is not in an alliance and has no airline partners, so in terms of earning points or miles, I didn’t have any great options.

Norwegian does have its own loyalty program; here’s how it works.

• You earn 2% CashPoints on all LowFare tickets
• You earn 10% CashPoints on all Flex tickets
• 1 CashPoint = 1 NOK
• You can use your CashPoints as full or partial payment for flight tickets, check-in luggage, seat reservations or ticket changes
• Your CashPoints remain valid until the end of the year you made your purchase + 2 years. For example, CashPoints for a flight paid for on 1 September 2014 are valid until 31 December 2016.

So you’re basically earning 2% back on those low fares to be used for future flights and fees. My flight netted me about $2.25 in credit for future Norwegian purchases – not so useful.

On our descent into Stockholm.

On our descent into Stockholm.

Still, for the price and convenience, this was an all-round decent flight experience.

Have you flown Norwegian? What was your experience like? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • cthej

    Thanks for the review. Seems like a competitive option.
    I would love to read a review of one of their transatlantic flights.
    I have been wavering on a trans-A flight on Norwegian. Would love to read a review of a trip from say, NYC to LGW. I am wavering b/c I am Boston-based and wondering if a Norwegian ticket would be worth my added transport costs from BOS-NYC via our famous cheapo bus lines that run back and forth. Gotta keep with the theme!

  • M Cohen

    You didn’t miss much with the wifi. I took Norwegian last year from Stockholm to Helsinki – the plane had wifi but it was so slow that it was barely functional.

  • Indieproducer

    BUYERS BEWARE OF BAIT AND SWITCH w/787 NORWEGIAN AIR

    I took this same plane from London To Copenhagen and it had fast/free wifi. Nice flight and great plane. However, BUYERS BEWARE, my mom and sister booked a flight on NORWEGIAN Air in May from JFK-COPENHAGEN and they swapped out the airplanes. #norwegianair They gave them a retrofitted 1980′s plane with the old audio jacks. The stewardess was handing out new headphones and my sister said “what do I do with this?” and she said “I don’t know”. Don’t believe the 787 hype here, as the roundtrip from Copenhagen was swapped out on a very old plane that they took out of mothballs. My mom and sister were so rattled from flight that they thought about spending the money to get another airlines. Sad but true.

  • alex

    I flew with Norwegian 4x and all those flights had really poor wifi, to the point I gave up after waiting for 10 minutes or so for a page to load. The planes were new, very clean and the crew very friendly. Extremely expensive food and drinks onboard.

  • lesley

    I literally just got off a transatlantic Norwegian air flight today (JFK to LGW). I have to say, the plane (a 787) impressed. Outfitted with the most up to date technology, the plane was sleek, clean, and every seat was outfitted with entertainment systems with a range of free, varied choices. The lighting of the plane cabins could be adjusted by the crew to express certain moods (reminiscent of virgin Atlantic flights) and the window “shades” where actually electronically adjustable with a window tinting that is controlled by the flyer sitting next to it. And I even heard a flight attendant boasting of better air quality in this specific type of aircraft, which apparently eased jetlag.
    As this is a budget airline, I paid to check my bag and get two meals in flight. Food was good. As expected really. Nothing to write home about, but still came with an alcoholic beverage. All pretty positive experiences thus far, but the negatives soon came to light. The flight attendants were very friendly and assisted however they could. But there seemed to just not be enough of them for the size of the flight. We did not get served dinner until a couple hours into the flight and then the rubbish left behind wasnt picked up for at least another hour. Since this was an overnight flight, I was anxious to get a little shut eye. But when service lasts so long, the lights weren’t dimmed until halfway through the flight. And with a breakfast service served about an hour before arrival, it left only about two hours to try to sleep. Not to mention that not everyone orders a meal package with their ticket so there were constant announcements as to when the snack bar was opened or closed or when to buy duty free, etc. Thus it was impossible to sleep uninterrupted for at least a small spell.
    All in all, the airline definitely has potential, but I would absolutely suggest a daytime flight for your transatlantic journey. Trust me.

  • gtg5017

    You mean like all airlines do sometimes due to equipment malfunctions/maintenance and schedule changes?

  • kk

    I flew LGW-Faro and the WiFi was turned on as soon as the belt sign was off. It was an impressive 6mbps download speed with 12ms ping!

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