Flight Review: Flying on Norwegian's B737-800
As I am writing these lines, the first two of Norwegian's Boeing 737-800 MAX are rolling out of the factory in Seattle, ready for the delivery flight to Oslo...so, my Norwegian flight this week was still on the good old version of the Boeing 737-800. This was a rather new airframe, nevertheless, delivered just three months ago, in March 2017.
Next is the flight report about how is it like to fly Norwegian on European short-haul, in this case between two of the airline's bases, London Gatwick and Barcelona.
Flight #: D85503
From: London Gatwick (LGW)
To: Barcelona- El Prat (BCN)
Flight time: 2h
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
I have flown with Norwegian a handful of times, always within Europe, and there is certainly something that sets the experience consistently apart from that of flying on other low cost or hybrid airlines.
It may be that the planes are usually very new (this one we flew in was just 3 months old) and spotlessly clean. It could be the Boeing cabin interior lighting, or the seat pitch, or the internet onboard (actually onboard wifi was not available on this latest flight, although it has been on others I have flown before), or simply the minimalist, nordic-inspired bright red design...in any case, the experience has always compared favourably to market peers.
In this case, it was a £41 pound (charges and fees included) from London Gatwick to Barcelona - actually £40.5 after using my Norwegian Reward miles to bring down the price a few cents! (an interesting feature of Norwegian's loyalty programme, that is structured in a way that makes it easy to use any points you have accumulated to lower the tab in your next booking)
The booking and airport experience were all smooth (it is amazing how Gatwick Airport has been improving in the last few years since the change of ownership, anyone still suffering from "Heathrowitis" should try it out!)
The only "if" of the whole pre-flight experience is that Norwegian's iPhone app would not let me amend a small detail of my personal details, as it seemed to be pulling it out directly from my Norwegian customer profile. However, it seemes it was not important after all, since it caused no issues for boarding (Norwegian's website is also a bit clunky when it comes to the user experience, to be honest, but this is a story for another day...).
Although most people gloss about the onboard wifi, I personally like two other features of Norwegian better. One is the seat pitch, which is quite good considering it is a low cost/hybrid airline (you can see below how, despite me having long legs, there was still some spare space, not really touching the seat in front).
The seats are also quite comfortable and the black leather cover gives them a rather dignified, elegant look (the red cover is, aesthetically, a nice addition too)
The other interesting feature is the Boeing Sky Interior. It not only gives the cabin interior a rather futuristic atmosphere, but the different lighting configurations, with changing colours and intensity, has a soothing effect throughout.
Here are pictures taking during different moments of the flight. You can see how the atmosphere keeps changing. I guess the effect is more pronounced in longer flights, like the Boeing 737 transatlantic flights that Norwegian recently launched, but on a two hour flight like London to Barcelona there is already plenty to admire.
The cabin is also equipped with small overhead screens every few rows, that are used for safety announcements and other content, although I did not really watch much of it, really.
The in-flight magazine is quite good quality-wise (and it comes with a line-up of the whole collection of Norwegian "tails", explaning who are the people depicted on them).
As you may have guessed, free and drinks are not for free on Norwegian. You can get an idea of what is on offer here on this pic, with prices in three currencies: Norwegian and Swedish Crowns and Euro (but not £).
Downside: No Internet!
Yes, this is supposed to be one of Norwegian's key differentiating features, yet, it was not available at all on this flight. After trying quite a few times to catch the signal, I asked one of the cabin crew, that kindly informed me that it was not available on the plane because it was too new and had not been installed yet.
I must say that on all other occasions I have flown Norwegian free online wifi was available and working well.
(by the way, there are no USB sockets next to the seats. So, if you expect to get onboard with a depleted phone battery, better bring a portable battery with you, because inflight wifi can be taxing to battery levels).
Norwegian offers what is possibly one of the best value-for-money in the market. A very nice product at reasonable prices. Not having internet onboard was a bit of a disappointment, but more to do with expectations (based on previous flights) than with it being very detrimental to the what is, even in these imperfect circumstances, a very competitive offering.