I had booked an incredible business class flight deal/mileage run out of Oslo Norway (OSL). The only problem was that I needed to get over to Europe to start the trip. While there were plenty of cheap options into OSL itself on Norwegian, I decided to make a mini-Norway trip out of it by flying into Bergen Norway and taking the train from Bergen to Oslo.
I applied for the Citi Prestige card in December, hoping to double-dip on the $250 per calendar year travel credit. Rushing to get purchases in before my statement closed, I forgot to book my Norwegian flight in Krone. So, while I got a good price at $206 for the one-way flight across the Atlantic, I could have paid ~$150 if I had just purchased the same flight through the Norwegian version of the website.
Norwegian Air operates out of JFK’s Terminal 1, which is JFK’s home for many foreign carriers. Since I wasn’t checking any bags, I was hoping to check-in and retrieve my boarding pass through the Norwegian app, but neither option was available. So, I headed to the check-in desk.
The Norwegian desk was in the “H” section of the terminal – which was to the far left-side of the terminal from the entrance. Unlike at other carrier’s check-in desks in Terminal 1, Norwegian had minimal signage to indicate that this was their check-in spot.
Just one person was in front of me in line and there were plenty of agents, so I was in front of a friendly agent in under a minute. The agent noted that I had been assigned a middle seat and asked if I wanted to change. While I was cautious that this was an up-sell opportunity, it ended up being free to choose another seat at this time.
I didn’t receive the option to upgrade to Premium class at the check-in desk. While I wasn’t looking to upgrade, I know that others have been given this option. So, don’t count on this being an option every time.
Unfortunately, there was no TSA Pre check line, as none of the airlines that use JFK’s Terminal 1 participate in the TSA Pre program. However, despite numerous travelers departing NYC this Friday afternoon, security was rather quick. I passed through the whole process in about 7 minutes.
Once through security, I headed to the only Priority Pass lounge in Terminal 1: the KAL Lounge. From security, you need to turn right toward gates 1-3 to get there. In addition to Priority Pass – which I have as a complimentary benefit of my Citi Prestige – Aeroflot and Saudia premium passengers can use this lounge.
The lounge had decently-comfortable seating, a tv room, a few work stations and an elevated view of the tarmac and one of JFK’s runways. There was one private “rest area” room – which was surprisingly occupied when one of the lounge staff opened the door to let me have a look.
The WiFi had a disappointing 2-3 Mbps download, but an impressive 16-18 Mbps upload.
For food, there were some cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, cup of noodles, bags of peanuts and a sandwich tray (not pictured above). Nothing special, but – knowing I would have to pay for food on-board Norwegian – I made dinner out of it. Drinks included sodas, juices, coffee, teas, beer, wine and a few self-serve liquors.
After a very early morning and a long day in NYC, it was quite nice to be able to take a shower in the lounge. The shower was quite practical-feeling – a bit like a private gym shower. But, the water was hot and all necessary materials were provided, from shampoo to packaged toothbrushes.
The only real complaint was the shower’s poor drainage. The water backed up so much that the floor of the bathroom ended up flooding during my shower. My bags were luckily out of harms way, but be wary of this if you use the shower during your visit.
The inbound plane from Norway arrived a bit late, so boarding for our flight didn’t start until 9:35pm for our 9:55pm departure time. By this time, passengers had formed a long line in the terminal, prepared to battle for overhead space with everyone else carrying-on luggage to avoid checked bag fees. This would end up to be unnecessary – at least in the front section of economy – as there was enough overhead bin space.
Boarding started with rows 1-5 (the Premium cabin) and families with infants – which wasn’t regulated at all, so many families with children of all ages boarded at this time. Once these groups were boarded, boarding continued from the back of the aircraft to the front.
By 10:02pm, the door was closed and we pushed back just 10 minutes late – an impressively-quick turn of the aircraft, especially for an international flight.
Cabin and Seat
The seats were the narrow 17-inch wide seats necessary to fit a 3-3-3 seating arrangement in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Boeing had originally designed the 787 to only have eight seats per row. However, only a few airlines have stuck with this original design.
Most have opted for the more-crowded high-capacity nine-wide arrangement. Since Norwegian has clearly positioned itself as a low-cost carrier, I’m much more forgiving of them using these narrower seats than of legacy airlines.
Thankfully, Norwegian didn’t opt to match Ryanair and other European low-cost carriers by skimping on seat quality. The seats had an adjustable headrest with folding wings to support your head or neck while you slept. Also, the seats had a moderate recline – which was a welcome relief for the overnight flight.
The seats also had good-quality extending fold-out tray tables. The combination of the seat pitch and the tray table design gave me enough room to work on my 11.6 inch screen laptop. If you have a larger screen, you might have some trouble working with the seat in front of you reclined.
If you’re traveling as a couple, the back two rows of the aircraft have two-seat pairings – along with extra room on the window side.
Norwegian welcomed passengers on-board with upbeat music playing over the PA system. Meanwhile, the in-flight entertainment screens cycled between nature and city scenes – seemingly of Norwegian Air destinations.
The cabin remained energetic (read: loud) throughout boarding and push-back. The cabin crew played a cheeky Norwegian Air introduction to the benefits of the 787 Dreamliner. For the safety video which followed, the crew resorted to cranking-up the volume until it was loud enough to make the passengers stop talking and pay attention.
There were no WiFi options on-board this 6:12-hour overnight flight across the pond.
The cabin crew were generally young and energetic – just like the Norwegian passenger base.
Generally, the cabin crew was friendly when interacting with passengers, but stuck to business. On such a short flight, the crew seemed to need to hurry through their service requirements to close the cabin for the night.
During dinner service, they hurried too quickly and forgot to serve my rowmates any drinks. However, a flight attendant promptly responded to the call button and retrieved drinks in under a minute once alerted to this service misstep.
Although I am rather blind when it comes to fashion, I did notice that the Norwegian cabin crew were dressed quite stylishly – even wearing leather gloves during departure and arrival. This seemed a bit strange for a discount airline, but not in a bad way.
Food and Beverage
On Norwegian, food and drink are not included in the “LowFare” base fare I purchased. Meals can be added to these tickets after booking for an additional $45. This includes a warm meal for dinner and a cold meal for breakfast, including drinks with both meals.
If you’re planning to check a bag – which is also a $45 addition to a LowFare ticket – you should look into the price for booking a “LowFare+” ticket. These Plus fares include meals and drinks, a checked bag and a seat reservation.
It seems that most of the passengers around me in the forward economy section had opted for the LowFare+ fare option, as most had pre-ordered meals. At meal service, flight attendants greeted customers by name to confirm that they had pre-ordered a meal and to ask for their choice.
Dinner was a choice of beef or chicken. Both of my rowmates ordered the beef option. Considering the modest size of the meal, I’m glad that I didn’t shell out the additional $45 for the meal option.
My row was served dinner at 11:47pm Eastern – nearly two hours after departure and nearly 6am in Norway – and their trays were collected at 12:20am Eastern. This timing meant a short night of sleep for most passengers. Even if you opt to skip the meal, the commotion in the cabin during meal service is likely going to keep you awake.
Just as people were starting to settle-in for sleep, a very loud – probably at the same level the safety video had been turned up to – recorded announcement alerted passengers that the “Snack Bar” was open. The In-Flight Entertainment system then displayed the food and drink options available.
However, many of the choices prompted passengers to ask the cabin crew for that day’s selection. So, I did. The crew seemed a bit annoyed with my asking – as they were likely ready to settle in for a little rest – but informed me that there were no more $7 “hot meals” and the $6 “hot snack” was a salami and cheese sandwich.
I returned to my seat and ordered it from there, swiping my credit card just under the IFE screen to pay for my selection. Within a couple of minutes, my warm sandwich was delivered. I was quite pleased with my choice, as the sandwich was large and tasty enough to justify the $6 cost.
With the short night of rest, it was a welcome relief that the crew prepared the cabin for landing just 15 minutes before landing. The IFE system stayed active throughout arrival – although movies and tv shows were paused for about five minutes before landing to display an arrival video: a mesmerizing video of a flying Norwegian plane while displaying helpful text reminders to gather your belongings.
Upon disembarking, the passengers had to queue for immigration. The line became so long that it stretched through multiple gate areas and even down the gateway. If you need to make a quick exit in Bergen, make sure to grab a seat near the front of the cabin. Otherwise, you can take a seat and catch-up on emails using the Bergen airport’s free WiFi while waiting, as I did.
I was pleased with my Norwegian Air experience. For a bargain cost of $206, I got all that I paid for: a seat on a Dreamliner from New York to Bergen Norway, along with a carry-on bag. For $6 more, I received a satisfactory warm snack to hold me through the night. The service was pleasant enough, considering the airline and the price paid. For this trip, it was exactly what I needed.
I applaud Norwegian Air for shaking up the transatlantic market by giving travelers options to get just what they pay for – whether that’s absolutely bare-bones as I paid for this time, or an excellent full-service premium economy. I look forward to flying Norwegian Air again.