Flying Aboard Norwegian Air's 787 Dreamliner

norwegian air dreamliner
Susan Breslow Sardone.

What is Norwegian Air?

One of Europe's newest and most modern fleets, Norwegian began offering transatlantic flights in 2013 and quickly racked up an impressive number of awards, including “Best European Low-Cost Carrier” from Skytrax and “Best Long-Haul Low-Cost Carrier."

Focused on making air travel affordable, this low-cost carrier offers rates to Europe than are cheaper than coast-to-coast flights by legacy carriers. And it's not because it is racking in money from high-cost sections. Norwegian Air has only two classes: Premium and Economy. No Business Class or First-Class sections are offered.

Currently the airline flies to ​more than 150 destinations in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Thailand, the Caribbean and the US and continues to expand its routes. In addition to multiple United States mainland gateways, the airline also flies to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

From the United States, Norwegian's cheapest intercontinental fares are on travel to and from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Scandinavian cities including Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm. 

Norwegian Air website
US Reservations Number: 1-800-357-4159

Norwegian Air Equipment:

On long-haul international flights, the airline employs modern, fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliners built with Rolls-Royce engines. These graceful, red-tipped birds easily reach altitudes of 40,000 feet and speeds in excess of 500 miles per hour. And you may be surprised by how quiet they are. The engines and aircraft design allow for significantly reduced noise levels in the cabin. These smart planes are also equipped with technology that mitigates turbulence and vibration. 

Another difference first-time travelers may notice is how much larger the windows are than on older planes. Instead of old-fashioned shades, there's a dial underneath each window to adjust how much light is let in. Bathrooms are also "light sensitive;" should you awaken in the middle of the night to use one, the loo is lit with a soft purple light rather than a glaring white one.

Norwegian Air Premium Class:

There's little chance you'll become annoyed when the passenger seated in front of you decides to recline if you fly Norwegian's Premium class. With a seat pitch of 46" inches, Norwegian boasts that it provides as much as eight inches more than other airlines flying between the U.S. and Europe.

Premium leather seats do not lie flat. Controls on one arm operate the recline and the position of the built-in foot stand; picture a wide-backed barber's chair tilted back. With a seat width of 19 inches, it's actually quite comfortable and with the supplied quilted blanket and earbuds, conducive to sleep.

Premium customers are allowed two pieces of checked-in luggage. Overhead bins for carry-ons are huge. However, if your bag weighs more than 10 kilograms (about 22 pounds), you may have to stow it with the baggage.

What's also special about Norwegian's Premium is that it provides perks normally reserved for Business and First Class travelers such as Fast Track security and complimentary lounge access at certain airports.

Norwegian Air Lounges:

At JFK, Premium passengers have access to the KAL (Korean Airlines) lounge in Terminal 1, where Norwegian flights depart from. It's an adequate space to use the bathroom, hop on the complimentary wi-fi and cop a beverage. Food selections (mini sandwiches from a tray that never got replenished) and desiccated pastries are unlikely to impress.

In Oslo, the lounge is located on the second floor above the international departures area. Like the KAL lounge, it's shared by passengers from a number of other airlines. However it's a more gracious space and arrays a palatable buffet meal and snacks.

Dining Aboard Norwegian Air:

Flight attendants circulate in Premium class pre-departure, offering water and juice. Two meal services are later provided during an intercontinental flight. Individual meals are delivered in a long paper box that introduces a Norwegian hero on the cover. Ours featured Olympic Gold Medal ice skater/actress Sonja Henie.

Our three-course dinner meal was hot, tasty and well prepared, with a choice of a beef filet or salmon entree. Warm rolls were offered from a basket. Before landing, the smaller second meal included yogurt and a bagel.

Norwegian Air Economy Class:

Let's face it: It's no fun to fly economy class on any airline. Norwegian's seats measure a fanny-pinching width of just 17.2 inches with nine seats per row, in a 3-3-3 configuration. Even honeymooners may not want to be that close on a flight of many hours.

If you don't bring your own meal aboard or arrange for a Nice & Tasty Menu (must be ordered online 72 hours prior to departure), Economy passengers can still get snacks and beverages delivered to their seat by ordering from the touchscreen and swiping a credit card. Head sets and blankets can also be ordered this way for a fee.

Before the flight, travelers who have already purchased a LowFare or Flex ticket may upgrade to a Premium ticket as space allows.

Norwegian Air Entertainment:

In Premium, passengers have a pop-up screen stashed in the armrest. In Economy, the screen is embedded in the seat back.

Choose from movies, TV shows, music, snack bar ordering, children’s programming, a 3D map tracking the flight, dutyfree shopping, games, and info about the airline. Each seat also has a USB port and a European-style power outlet.  

Norwegian Air Drawbacks:

Note: It's very important to check in at the website 72 hours in advance to register your passport number. However, you won’t get a reminder to do so. Or a boarding pass.

We found the check-in procedure confusing as we weren't able to print out boarding passes from the website before the flight. At JFK, we got in a short line and were provided with our Premium pass at that point.

It turns out that most other airports honor the QR code in the Norwegian Travel Assistant App for iPhone or Android in lieu of a paper ticket. Once you set it up, the unique QR code that it shows for your flight is the equivalent of a boarding pass. 

In Bergen, where we departed from en route to Oslo, we were met by a bank of computers. By keying in our confirmation number and last name and allowing the machine to scan our passport, we received passes for our two flights home.

Bottom line: For airports that don't accept smartphone boarding passes, Norwegian needs to enable passengers to print out their own passes ahead of time.

A few quibbles as well:

  • Although Norwegian was proud to be the first airline to offer free high-speed wi-fi on flights within Europe, it was not available on our transatlantic flight.
  • Multiple in-cabin monitors suspended from the ceiling that blink time, altitude, speed and distance are distracting and stay on throughout the flight.

Insider Tips:

If your travel days are flexible, use the Low-Fare Calendar.

If you're flying into Oslo, there's no faster or more direct way to reach the city center than by the high-speed Flytoget airport express train.

Once you clear Customs, turn right and keep walking till you see a group of orange-hued Flytoget kiosks. An attendant can help you to purchase a ticket using your credit card. There's also a help booth further inside. In fact, every step of the way, there are well-identified staff to guide you to the train, which arrives a short escalator ride down.

The ride takes about 20 minutes to reach Oslo S (aka Oslo Central Station). Since there's free wi-fi on board and power outlets by each seat, this trip will feel even quicker than that.