When you hear of a sub-$200 one-way flight to/from Europe on a budget airline, what comes to mind? luxury? Bus ticket? That seems way too cheap?
Regardless of what is running through your head, rest assured, everything checks-out. We flew Norwegian Airlines last week from Copenhagen to Los Angeles on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Total cost per person was $170. I would rate the flight a 4/5 from take-off to landing.
I will gladly admit it, Norwegian Airlines is a “budget airline”. If you ask a rookie traveler they would describe it as, “they charge you for everything little thing”. If you asked a more experienced traveler, they would describe it as “you only pay for what you need.” It is important to understand the fees so you can prepare and keep things on a “budget”.
The major difference between budget airlines and legacy carriers lies with what is included. With budget airlines you only get a ticket and some carry-on luggage. Pretty much everything else costs. With a legacy carrier you typically get a reserved seat, two meals on a trans-Atlantic flight, and a slightly more generous baggage allowance.
So that begs the question, how much do you value a reserved seat, two meals, and slightly more carry-on allowance? For me, carry-on luggage is a non-issue since I travel very light. I can’t eat airline food so I have to pack my own snacks anyway. An economy seat is just that, an economy seat. I honestly don’t care where I sit since I sleep at least 50% of the flight.
Is it really that much cheaper?
Considering there are $117 one-way flights in November from Stockholm to Oakland, CA, I would say it is MUCH cheaper. A similar flight from Stockholm to Los Angeles on SAS Airlines will cost over $1,000 one-way. That is an insane amount of cash, but you’d still be hard pressed to find a non-budget flight to the West Coast for under $400 one-way.
If you are flexible on your dates, you can find really cheap flights from Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Oakland.
How is the flight experience?
The flight experience came with no surprises, which is all I need to be happy. I knew in advance they don’t offer free food or drink. Norwegian will accept most forms of plastic, so if you want water, soda, snacks, or a meal, expect to pay $3-$10.
Ordering food and drinks is very easy being that EVERY seat includes a touch-screen. You can browse the menu and order straight from your seat. In a few minutes your goodies will be brought over by the smiling crew.
If you get bored you can also play with the interactive 3D map. You can change the view from outside the plane, zoom in on your house, or switch to cockpit mode, which I liked.
Yes, Norwegian Air provides FREE movies at every seat. This is a YUGE perk for a budget airline. There was a great choice of new releases, documentaries and a TON of TV shows. I watched the latest Star Wars and a Bradley Cooper cooking flick called Burnt. The screens are very clear plus you have a headphone jack and USB charging jack.
In addition to the USB port at each seat, each row has two 110V AC power outlets so you can charge a laptop or larger electronic devices. I don’t see any reason to have a laptop out unless you have your own movies or you need to type-up an essay. The entertainment choices at your seat are a-plenty for a ten-hour flight over the North Pole.
The seating configuration of this new 787 Dreamliner is 3-3-3. The plane has two aisles and a ton of storage above each seat. The plane was very clean and was noticeably quieter compared to many other wide-body jets.
The Dreamliner has some sweet ambient lighting which makes the flight a little more “cheery”. They say the lighting on the Dreamliner also helps reduce jet lag, I am not so sure about that.
The seat gamble.
If you are traveling with a family or friend, you probably want to sit next to them for 10 hours. If you buy a LowFare ticket you will have to shell out $35 each-way to reserve a seat. If you are one of those travelers that NEEDS an aisle or window, it may be worth it to you.
Alyssa and I did not choose to reserve seats and we were assigned an aisle and middle seat side-by-side (19E and 19D). In hindsight, I still would not have paid $70 total so that we could pick our seats, not worth it to me. If you have a young-one or a fear of flying, I could see how you would not want to gamble and potentially get split up with your party.
Norwegian says that you are allowed a carry-on bag that weighs up to 22lbs. They state that your carry-on bag should also not exceed: 21″ X 15″ X 9″. In addition to your carry-on you are allowed a small personal item that must fit under your seat. Something like a briefcase or large purse would count as a personal item.
During boarding, which was a first-come-first-serve process, they did not even look at or weigh my two bags. Many travelers report that Norwegian does not really care about the weight or size of their two carry-on’s as long as it doesn’t look like you are carrying a surfboard. As always, your mileage may vary at each airport and with each gate agent.
If you need to check a bag, it will cost you $57 one-way from Europe to the West Coast (and vice versa). You are allowed up to 70lbs in your checked bag, so it would make sense for two people to share a checked bag. If you wait until the airport to pay for your check bag, the price goes up. With most extras, pay for them when buying your ticket or well before check-in.
Would I Recommend?
I would definitely recommend Norwegian Airlines if you can find a sub-$200 one-way flight. Even if you have to pay for a seat and checked bag, you’d still be at under $300 one-way for a 10+ hour flight. If you want two meals on-board it will run you $32 one-way.
In addition to two meals, they do bring snacks and coffee/tea rather often for all passengers that paid for a meal in advance. We packed snacks and ordered a few water bottles while on-board. Like I said earlier, with budget airlines, you only pay for what you NEED and USE. If you don’t need a meal and reserved seat, wouldn’t you rather save that money?
Make sure to enter your passport information online no later than 72 hours before your departure. Your boarding door closes 30 minutes before departure, although it seemed more like 10 minutes on our flight (I wouldn’t risk it). We did take-off on time and we landed about 20 minutes early.
Speaking of risk, there is only one flight a day (at most) when you are flying West Coast to Europe via Norwegian Airlines. If you miss your flight, well, don’t expect to catch the later flight. Remember, this is a budget airline, they won’t accommodate you.
I used my Capital One Venture card’s 40,000 point bonus to “erase” our two flights. We technically did pay cash for the flight but we erased the charge by using 34,000 points ($340). Not bad for two one-ways from Europe to the West Coast.
Don’t live in one of the served West Coast cities? Just catch a cheap flight once you land. We landed in Los Angeles and flew home on Southwest to Phoenix for just 1,600 points (via Companion Pass).
Not interested in visiting a Scandinavian country in the winter? You can catch very cheap flights (around $30 at times) within Europe to warmer cities, such as Rome and Barcelona.