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5 reasons we'll miss Norwegian long haul

Jan. 21, 2021
8 min read
norwegian 787 dreamliner
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In mid-January, we learned of the news that Norwegian would sadly be ending its long-haul operations in a bid to survive the pandemic.

Back in April 2020 the airline hoped that it would be able to restart long haul operations in April 2021 but the devastating effects of the pandemic on the airline industry were just too much for the Norwegian low-cost carrier.

In its heyday, Norwegian was once the largest foreign operator at New York's airports, carrying more passengers to and from the city than even British Airways and Air Canada. Norwegian's route network from Europe to New York included nonstop flights from capital cities across the continent including Amsterdam (AMS), Barcelona (BCN), Madrid (MAD), Oslo (OSL), Paris (CDG) and Stockholm (ARN).

For now at least, as we head into 2021 and a new, strange era for aviation, Norwegian's short haul Boeing 737s will be predominantly based in Nordic airports serving some key destinations around Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.

So, what was so good about a long haul low cost carrier?

1. Consistently low fares

Norwegian made flying to New York, and other destinations in the US, from the U.K. and Europe more affordable than ever. We regularly saw return fares in economy starting at $336 (£245) or even less.

The same could be said for fares in its Premium cabin -- the airline's version of premium economy. Once for a review, we managed to snag a one way in Premium for just $560 (£408) only 12 days out -- that kind of price for competitors for a one-way ticket is quite frankly unheard of and would likely be in the thousands of dollars.

TPG founder, Brian Kelly, is also a big fan:

"The cheap last minute one way premium pricing! They saved my ass on more than one occasion, like when La Compagnie canceled my last minute Paris flight. I went to JFK and bought a Norwegian ticket on the way to the airport and salvaged my trip.", said Kelly.

The one downside with low fares is that you arguably got what you paid for when it came to the food in economy. Unfortunately, the airline featured in our worst economy meals in the sky round-up.

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Not only were Norwegian's fares cheap, but the airline's entrance into the transatlantic market and the introduction of low cost, super affordable fares, forced the incumbent flag carriers operating the same routes to compete. Thanks to Norwegian, return economy fares with the likes of BA and Virgin were regularly below $400 (£300)!

2. Great value premium economy

Premium economy is notorious for being either really good, or really bad.

Norwegian's version of the cabin certainly fell into the former category. The great value fares mentioned above didn't mean a subpar experience. In fact, certain aspects of the experience were so good that Norwegian's Premium could be compared to some business class experiences. More specifically, for ex-TPG General Manager, Christian Kramer, the comfy seats with generous recline on Norwegian's Dreamliners were akin to the old-style, angled, business-class seats before lie-flats became the norm.

(Photo by Christian Kramer/The Points Guy)

Brian Kelly approves of the 46 inches which is quite the complement given that he's 6 foot 7 inches tall.

"Their 787 premium economy was comfy enough to sleep for me on a quick transatlantic flight -- they will be missed!", explained Kelly.

The cabin comprises eight rows of Premium seating on the Dreamliner in a 2-3-2 config -- so 56 passengers in total.

In terms of food and drink, Norwegian's Premium earned a well-deserved spot in our round-up of the best premium economy meals in the sky. Interestingly, in another review, Kramer, didn't rave about the food he was served.

(Photo by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy)

3. Flying Long haul from Gatwick instead of Heathrow to the US and beyond

For many Londoners, flying long haul often means a trip to Heathrow. Depending on where you live in the city, getting to Heathrow is via a long trip on the Tube, a rather expensive Heathrow Express journey or a long and expensive Uber ride.

Related: The best ways to get from Heathrow Airport to London

Gatwick on the other hand has fast and comparatively cheap direct train links to main interchange stations across London. The Sussex airport is also well connected to Brighton as well as other commuter cities North of London and along the South coast.

A Norwegian Dreamliner basking in the light of one of Gatwick's famous sunsets (Photo by Kyle McKernan)

Sadly, with the permanent departure of Norwegian, gone are the days of being able to jet off from Gatwick on cheap nonstop flights to places like Buenos Aires (EZE), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK) and Rio de Janeiro (GIG).

Related: The best ways to get to Gatwick Airport

4. Guaranteed modern fleet

Flying Norwegian long haul meant enjoying several hours on one of the most modern, comfortable and environmentally-friendly aircraft in the sky -- the Boeing 787 Dreamliner -- and the only long haul aircraft type in its fleet. According to the airline's website, it has a total of 37 in its fleet.

A Norwegian 787 Dreamliner. (Photo courtesy Norwegian)

However, there was no guarantee of a modern new aircraft when flying a competitor. Pre-pandemic, it's no secret that many airlines' fleets were getting close to retirement age. Take BA and Virgin, for example, two U.K. airlines who operate many of the same transatlantic routes that Norwegian used to. While both airlines are slowly modernizing their fleets with the introduction of Dreamliners and A350s, flying across the Atlantic with BA would likely mean now-retired 747 or a triple seven that was due for a retrofit. And, if you were flying Virgin, a now-retired A340-600 or its slightly younger sibling, the A330.

5. Exciting leased aircraft surprises

Unfortunately for Norwegian, its Dreamliners were as troublesome as they were modern. The airline's newly delivered, revolutionary aircraft were plagued with engine issues and so the decision was made to lease other aircraft to replace the Dreamliners temporarily. There were times that instead, your flight could be operated by an Evelop A330, a Privilege Style 777 or even the infamous Wamos Air 747.

Related: Norwegian using leased aircraft from 4 different airlines on routes from London to the US

However, the real exciting surprise would be to find out you'd be flying HiFly's

A380, which operated the Gatwick (LGW) to New York (JFK) route on several occasions. The aircraft came from Singapore Airlines, and still featured the old school Singapore Suites at the forward part of the lower deck. Those often unsuspecting passengers who'd booked themselves a ticket in Premium were upgraded by default to this ex-Singapore Airlines suite, benefitting from a lie-flat bed rather than an inclined seat.

I was lucky enough to try it out myself.

(Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

Norwegian once had big aspirations for its long haul route network. Back in 2019, Bjørn Jkos, Norwegian's founder spoke of these aspirations: "If New York City is the barometer for success in the airline industry, our rapidly growing passenger numbers are proof positive that Norwegian is here to stay, with further efforts to deepen our roots in this market in the forthcoming years", said Jkos. Thanks to the pandemic, these plans have been grounded with no mention of a restart date anytime soon.

It may be several years before the aviation and travel industry gets back on its feet and when it does, we hope that Norwegian's long haul route network will make a come back, better and stronger than ever.

Featured image by Norwegian 787 Dreamliner. (Photo courtesy Norwegian)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
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  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023