Newest Review: ... Fast check-in via kiosk is available at some of the destinations served by the airline. Luggage Allowances For a "low cost" ai... more
Norwegian - a high quality low cost airline.
Member Name: ALM1
Advantages: Competive fares. Consistent service. Easy to use website.
Disadvantages: A littel more legroom would be welcome!
Last year, I was standing on an airbridge at Bergen's Flesland airport, waiting to board a flight to Oslo Gardermoen on the first leg of a two sector journey to Edinburgh. As I stepped onto the aircraft and turned into the aisle I noticed a smell - not an unpleasant smell - but the heady aroma of new leather. I looked around the passenger cabin. Gone were the tired seats and fittings and instead I saw a light, airy and spacious looking interior - off-white bulkheads and cabin fittings and smart charcoal grey leather covered seats. That was the moment the thought struck me.......I had been using this airline for over two years and had come to regard it as a reliable and reasonably priced carrier which has been improving continuously. It was time I got myself organised and wrote a review about Norwegian Air Shuttle, or 'Norwegian' as they have now branded themselves. So what is it that impresses me about this airline?
Assuming you have internet access, booking could not be easier. I book flights online regularly with several carriers and this is among my favourite websites for speed, ease and clarity. Go to "www.norwegian.com" and the homepage will offer you the choice of booking your chosen destination and date immediately or looking first at the Fare Calendar. This latter choice is worth trying if you can be flexible with your dates as you might just find a bargain. What you will not see are those wonderfully tempting give-away fares only to be disappointed when you see the final bill. Norwegian include the taxes and transit fees at the outset so you are spared the shocks. As with all "low cost" carriers, however, you will have to pay a modest fee to check-in luggage - more on that later. You are also able to reserve the seat of your choice at this stage if you wish - again for a fee. This website can be viewed in ten languages (including English) and you can choose to see your fare displayed in six different currencies including the GB pound and the Euro. If internet access is a problem for you then telephone 0047 21 49 00 15 or book through a travel agent.
My check-in experiences have always been problem free though this, of course, is largely due to the handling agent. All relevant information from Norwegian seems to get to the right place at the right time, however. Fast check-in via kiosk is available at some of the destinations served by the airline.
For a "low cost" airline, these must be some of the most generous weight allowances around. Yes, as with carriers of this type you must pay to put luggage in the hold but £6 per piece per sector for an international flight (European) is not excessive and for this you may carry up to 20 kg. However, should you wish to check-in a second piece of luggage then you may...although that will incur a further £6 per sector. This added flexibility can be extremely important for some travellers. You may take hand-luggage on board up to 10 kg at no added cost.
Norwegian came into existence in 1993 as a regional airline within Norway. They have been growing ever since into the fifth largest "low-cost" carrier in Europe. Since 2008 they have been taking delivery of Boeing 737-800 aircraft (48 are currently on order) adding to the existing 737-300s and MD80s they had been operating. By 2014 they propose to operate - in their words - "the most modern and environmentally friendly fleet" in Europe.
On-board Service and Crew
On-board service is consistent. I have come to expect the crew to be smart and courteous. All staff speak English well. The food service on-board is fairly standard for a "low-cost" carrier and, of course, you will have to pay if you wish to partake. On flights longer than one hour there will be a trolley service offering hot, cold and alcoholic drinks, sandwiches, salads and snacks. Warm snacks such as panini or burgers will only be served on flights of longer than two and a half hours duration. Expect to pay 20 NOK (approx £1.90) for a hot or cold drink and 45 NOK (approx £4.20) for a cold sandwich. (This is a better deal than you will find at a Norwegian airport.) The quality of the food and drink is perfectly acceptable although I would describe the choice as standard rather than inspired. (Having said that I find the cinnamon buns hard to resist!) On longer flights - over three and a half hours - entertainment is available in the form of music channels and current, family-friendly films. (A headset will cost 40 NOK - approx £3.75)
Speaking entirely about my own experiences I can say that the flights I have taken with Norwegian have taken off on time and have landed on time, a little early or, at the most, ten minutes late.
Ah yes, the space question. This is the only real negative I can find about Norwegian. I cannot tell you the precise seat pitch but I can say I feel that there is a little less space between seat rows with Norwegian than I have found with some other carriers. Having said that I find the design of the cabin feels spacious (and I suffer from claustrophobia!) and I have no difficulty stretching my legs out under the seat in front of me. But sometimes the seatback facing me feels quite close. Apparently the airline is making a small reduction in the number of seats in the cabin to bring about some improvement in this situation. So, if you'll pardon the pun, I'll be watching this space.
This is where Norwegian is proving to be a winner. Yes, you pay a little to check-in your suitcase and you pay for your cup of tea but these small things aside, I feel as if I am flying regular-scheduled-carrier with this airline. There is little of the "low-cost" carrier feel about this company. However the fares are good. Here's an example. My journey from Bergen to Edinburgh cost me £110 (including luggage). The next best fare I could find with any other airline was £163 - and the journey would have been one hour longer. Norwegian have 178 routes between 84 destinations in Scandinavia, Europe - including the Canary Islands and Greek Islands - and also to Morocco and Dubai. I find I get a good choice of routes, convenient flight times and good service for the price and the fare is very often the lowest available for a given route. Occasional offers can be attractive too - at the moment a fare of (from) £29 is being offered from London to Oslo or Copenhagen (one way). Even if you want to take to a suitcase and have a coffee and a cinnamon bun on board you will still get change out of £40. I think that is fairly attractive.
I am not employed in aviation and I know I am not qualified to make any definite proclamations here. However, I have twenty years experience as a frequent flyer - in both commercial and small private aircraft and I can say I feel confident when I fly with Norwegian. They are currently showing a safety demonstration video prior to take-off in the form of a 3d animation rather then have crew members provide the briefing. I am rather impressed with this. It cuts across language barriers and holds your interest - important especially for frequent flyers as we can get little blase about this part of the flight. Occasional articles in the airline's in-flight magazine are designed to inform and educate the passenger about safety issues. I find this to be an indication of how seriously Norwegian view safety and security.
Facilities for Disabled People
I am able bodied and although I have escorted mobility-impaired people in the past I have no experience with this carrier. Therefore I cannot give an objective view of how well disabled people are assisted by Norwegian. Their website gives specific information for people with special requests for their flight, so I would recommend talking to the airline's staff before you book to make sure your requirements can be accommodated.
Frequent Flyer Programme
The frequent flyer programme introduced in December 2009 has two schemes; one for the individual traveller called "My Reward" and the other for companies to use, labelled "Corporate Reward". Under the "My Reward" scheme, if you buy a full-price, fully flexible ticket you will receive 10 percent of the value in "CashPoints" and if you use the low fares you will receive 2 percent in "CashPoints". When the time comes to exchange your points, each "Cashpoint" is equivalent to 1 Norwegian Kroner (NOK). This all sounds very generous, but when you consider that currently 1 NOK is the equivalent of 11p in Britain the rewards are put in perspective. On the positive side, though, is the fact that you can begin to use your points immediately - no need to save up to a certain amount. You can make a part-payment with your points not only for flights but also for the 'extras' such as checked-in luggage costs. Nonetheless, I cannot see this benefitting an occasional holiday-maker at all. It is, as it states, a scheme for frequent flyers.
In summary, I would now choose this airline, not only because of the competitive fares but also because of the choice of routes and their consistency of service. Based on my experience and that of my family and friends, I would not hesitate to recommend this company.
(NB: this review appears on other sites under the name of ALM1 or The Travelling Geordie)
Summary: A reliable carrier offering very competive fares.