Everyone has this perception that taking a transatlantic flight on a low-cost carrier means wrapping your legs around your ears and dodging chickens running up and down the aisle (and not the good kind of chicken).
I did, too. And then I took Norwegian Air to Europe.
I booked this carrier because:
- Friends had taken them and raved about the experience.
- They had by far the best price (by hundreds of dollars).
- They had the best flight times.
- Many of their US flights connect through cities like Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, Norway – airports that are newer, nicer and much easier to navigate than, say, London’s Heathrow (which, as you probably know, is massive).
And I was not disappointed with the experience.
Norwegian uses brand new 787 Dreamliners, so you’re getting state-of-the-art planes. The windows, for example, are 60% bigger, and you “close the shade” by pushing a button that turns the glass black. I had to do it several times just for fun. (I’m easily amused. Don’t judge.)
And they feature that fabulous pink and blue lighting that you’re starting to see on new domestic U.S. planes, which helps with sleep cycles. And who doesn’t love a pink gel when you look like you’ve been sitting upright for 12 hours and appear to have been sleeping in a crack house.
In-flight on Norwegian, you can order any kind of snacks and drinks (all extra cost, of course) at any time via the seat-back entertainment system. So, as long as you have a credit card handy, you can order up a buffet and get tanked.
And their seats are no tighter than any other airline – 10 across in coach, same legroom, etc. So, all in all, the onboard experience is as good, if not better than the standard “full-service” carriers.
- Avoid the very back section of the coach cabin. They place parents with babies and toddlers here, for the ease of bathroom access. Trust me, you will be surrounded by crying babies. And apparently, it’s illegal to smother them with a pillow.
- Check the seat maps for your flights on Seatguru.com (or just do an online chat with Norwegian and ask them while you’re booking) to figure out which rows are exit rows. You can book these more-legroom rows for no extra charge!
- [Norwegian’s Premium Class]
I flew back home in Norwegian’s premium class, which is like a very nice domestic first class. Tons of legroom, the seat reclines like 60 degrees, you get better food and free booze, etc. They only offer premium on their transatlantic flights, so although you’ll fly premium, say, from LA to Oslo, you’ll be in coach from Oslo to Prague (or wherever). But who cares; the intra-Europe flight is often two hours or less.
If the additional cost of premium is in your budget, I’d definitely do it. Fortunately, the premium class fare is FAR less than you’d pay for business class on a regular carrier – it’s generally about $300-700 more than coach, each direction, depending on how far out you book and the demand. (Granted, on that regular, legacy carrier you might have a “pod”, with a lie-flat seat, more privacy, etc.)
I had a great seatmate, a Nordic guy who was straight but really awesome and super interesting. He actually made the flight fun.
- The earlier you book your flight, the lower that premium class fare will be. (Outside of a “flash sale”, this is also true for coach fares with Norwegian.) They continue to rise as the date gets closer.
- If you want to fly premium, but the fare is too high into the city you’re going to, check the fares into a nearby city and consider adding on a low-cost flight from that city to your actual destination. In other words, if you’re flying to Paris, also check fares into London, Oslo, etc.
Now, this semi-rave review does come with a caveat:
Everything is extra.
Your checked bag. Your seat assignment. Your meal(s). These add-on’s can easily total $80-100 each way. Norwegian does offer an “upgraded” coach fare which basically bundles all these fees for slightly less money, and that does take the nickel-and-diming feel out of the equation.
So, consider Norwegian and Wow for your next European adventure, and you’ll discover that these low-cost transatlantic carriers are not at ALL as bad as they seem.
However, the low-cost U.S. airlines like Spirit, and intra-European ones like Ryan Air are as bad as they seem. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.