Before I board my Premium Economy flight to Boston I had a 2.5 hour flight from Budapest to Oslo which is operated by an all economy Beoing 737 which I was happy about as it would give me a chance to check out their economy product as well.
I arrived at Budapest airport terminal 2B and headed straight for the check in counter. Norwegian had 4 desks with a relatively short line, about ten minutes later I had my boarding passes. The check in agent offered to check my carry on baggage for free which I declined as I try to always do carry-on only. Norwegian allows a carry-on and a personal item with a total weight restriction of 10 kg (22 lbs). I knew that I was way over the allowed carry-on weight allowance but nobody seemed to care so I happily walked to security with my bags in tote.
The boarding process was quick and efficient and we were up in the air at 1:32 pm on a 1:30 pm scheduled flight, nice. I chose seat 1c which is a bulkhead aisle seat and had plenty of leg room to stretch out. Food and duty free menus were handed out about 20 minutes after take off and after a glance at the menu I ordered a cheese sandwich, Coke Zero and a box of chips. Since Norwegian is a low cost carrier you will have to pay for all refreshments and snacks unless you are in premium economy. The sandwich was pretty good, I would say better than what I’m usually used to on American Airlines. After lunch I sat back and enjoyed a smooth flight to Oslo.
Premium Economy: Osl0-Boston
The Oslo airport is small and tight. I landed with about 30 minutes before boarding and I decided not to venture around to find the Norwegian lounge but instead to head straight for the gate and I’m glad I did as I had to clear passport control first. There was no marked premium line so I stayed in line with everyone else and within 15 minutes I had cleared passport control and was on my way to the gate.
When I arrived at the game it looked like a group trying to get into a sold out NFL game, no line nor any order. For some reason they clear the gate area before boarding US flights so people were just hanging around the gate entry door. About 5 minutes before scheduled boarding time they announced Business Class passengers can board now which left me and a few other passengers puzzled as Norwegian does not have business class. After standing around for a little bit I pushed my way to the front of the line and asked if they meant Premium Economy and that is in fact what they meant so I went ahead and boarded along with the other confused passengers behind me.
Once aboard this gorgeous Boeing 787 I turned left to head towards seat 1A and what I saw was an almost empty Premium Economy cabin, I figured it was because I boarded early and took the opportunity to snap a few pictures.
In seat power plugs
Leg room from bulkhead seat
Once the gate closed the cabin was maybe a third way filled which really surprised me as the difference in fare from Economy to Premium Economy at time I booked was only about $120 each way. That’s worth it just for the extra legroom, leg rest and recline angle. I’m not sure if less frequent travelers factor in the opportunity cost of flying economy and being exhausted on arrival. While this product may not be a fully lie-flat business class product, it is still effecient enough to get a decent sleep without feeling like you have a soccer ball lodged in your neck.
The Seat: I would compare it with a domestic US first class seat although it has a noticeable amount of more recline, a leg rest with a foot stand and an adjustable head rest for neck support. I was highly impressed on how comfortable the seat was and was actually able to get a couple hours of sleep.
Food: Norwegian doesn’t offer menus to their premium economy passengers. Instead I had a verbal choice of shrimp, beef, or chicken for dinners and I opted for the shrimp. The food comes out in a box all at once which is nice for speed but doesn’t feel premium. Where it lacks in presentation, it makes up for in taste. I wouldn’t put it on the level of international premium class catering but I would once again compare the quality of the food to US domestic first class. Not gourmet but also not airplane food.
Service: I was thoroughly impressed by the flight attendants. Pre departure drinks were served fast and they kept coming around until it was time to buckle up and take off. Also, dinner service started about 30 minutes into our flight and my table was cleared within 5 minutes of finishing my dinner. All the flight attendants were pleasant, attentive and highly accommodating. Snacks are offered throughout the flight by ordering on the IFE touch screen and the flight attendants bring out your order pretty quickly. Lastly, their uniforms are pretty cool and fashionable which does give the experience a nice classy touch.
Entertainment: Norwegian really excels here. They have a wide array of new and classic movies, tv shoes, and games to keep me busy and occupied for the entire flight. It’s actually one of the most robust libraries I have seen with the exception of Emirates and Etihad.
Verdicts: I was really hoping to like Norwegian’s Premium Economy product to have a reasonably priced and reasonably comfortable option for US to Europe flights when I can’t find sub $2,000 flights on a non low cost carrier and I’m happy to report that the service, seat, and entertainment system all surpassed my hopes. So, I will definitely fly Norwegian again when I can’t find cheap business class seats. Why only when I can’t find business class seats? Well, Norwegians frequent flyer program is really weak and they are not a member of any alliance so you will not be able to credit miles to a partner airline. I love the product but I love my frequent flyer miles better so I would choose to pay a little more for a business class seat that earns miles into one of the major alliances like Oneworld, Star Alliance, or Sky Team. When I can’t find sub $2000 business class flights to Europe than I will surely be on the Norwegian website to book my Premium Economy seat.
One a side note, I was able to book this flight with a trick that gave me 20% off. Look out for a post in the next couple of days that illustrates how you too can save 20% on all Norrwegian flights.