Inside Norwegian’s £845 premium cabin from New York to London after flying out in economy and revelling in the VERY comfortable big seats (but the food was WORSE)
- The pictures here compare leg room and meals in premium and economy on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner
- Norwegian’s economy ticket from London to New York averages at £275 while premium comes in at £845
- The premium ticket grants you lounge access, free refreshments, snacks and two checked bags
Bumping up from economy to business class on a flight can cost thousands of pounds but low-cost carrier Norwegian Air promises it can offer a little bit of luxury for a snip of the price with its premium service.
I compared the airline’s upgraded offering with its standard seating on a return lap from London to New York on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner recently.
A return flight in economy averages around £275 while premium comes in at £845. So just what do you get for your extra £550 or so?
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Sadie flew with Norwegian Air from London to New York in the economy cabin (left) and said she was impressed by the service and little extras, like USB sockets on every seat back (pictured right)
The seat pitch in Norwegian’s economy cabin is only 30 – 31 inches but Sadie said she didn’t mind too much as she’s got pretty short legs
To find out I first had to get the economy leg out of the way, which began at 5.05pm one Saturday night in Gatwick and ended eight hours later at JFK International Airport.
I swiftly settled into my seat, which pleasingly had little supportive wings, which aided comfort, but the pitch is only 30 to 31 inches, which is a bit on the cramped side, but I’m fairly small, so I didn’t mind.
However, I was made to feel a little claustrophobic by a couple sitting next to me, as they incessantly argued and then proceeded to get very drunk.
I was pretty surprised to find that they were newly-engaged (something which helped them snag a free bottle of cava from the delightfully jolly flight attendant) – so I guess all is fair in love and war.
Other plus points? The meal I’d pre-ordered for an extra £25 (this includes a main meal, snack bag, a glass of wine or beer and a hot beverage) was delicious and there was a nice concise movie selection that didn’t require an hour of decision-making.
Meals are available to order in Norwegian’s economy cabin. For £25, you get a main meal, snack bag, a glass of wine or beer and a hot drink. Sadie said her vegetarian meal in economy (pictured) was much better than the box of nibbles in premium
The snack bag in economy is served shortly before landing
Economy provisions: Sadie discovered a vegetarian wrap, a pot of fruit and tropical juice inside her paper bag
There are 282 seats in Norwegian’s economy cabin aboard the Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The downsides? There was only wine available for free with my meal, no spirits (I tend to like whisky for helping me sleep on flights) and it was tricky to sleep upright, with the super-slim seats lacking padding.
So, while there weren’t many problems with Norwegian economy, after sampling the premium service, it will be difficult going back behind the curtain divider.
I started reaping the benefits of premium on the return journey from New York to London before I’d even set foot on the plane.
In JFK airport a long queue snaked towards the check-in desks but I gleefully skipped this line to the priority boarding lane, where it took me less than five minutes to scoot through.
The friendly lady told me at this point my premium ticket would also grant me access to the Alitalia lounge in Terminal 1.
I made my way towards security – a place I always dread in JFK – but I was delighted to find my ticket diverted me to the fast track line.
Again, I sailed through in less than five minutes.
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Sadie found there was ample room to stretch her legs in the premium cabin with a 43 – 46 inch seat pitch (left), and she also appreciated the wings on the head rest, which enabled her to get a solid stretch of sleep (right)
The seat in the premium cabin was so wide that Sadie was able to curl up sideways without bothering her neighbour
There are 56 seats aboard Norwegian’s premium cabin and they offer more than a metre of legroom
The Alitalia lounge, which isn’t a patch on the British Airways or Virgin business class pre-boarding areas, was fairly hectic when I arrived but I managed to sneak a spot on a table.
However, it hadn’t been cleared in a while.
After clearing the debris and setting down my bags, I made my way to the buffet station but all of the hot food had been taken away as it was around 9:30pm. I opted for a sandwich from the refrigerator instead, washed down with a good old Beefeater gin and tonic.
The sandwich was a 6 out of 10, with fairly stiff cuts of bread and measly slices of mozzarella.
Mediocre sandwiches aside, lounges always beat milling around in the general chaos of the airport and I appreciated that the Norwegian premium ticket allowed me to escape the throng.
The boarding process for the plane was swift and the benefits of the premium service really shone through when I got to my seat, number J1.
There was so much more leg room – the seats in premium have a 43-46 inch pitch – and the chairs recline around 45 degrees with a nifty foot rest adding to the comfort factor.
As soon as I got into my seat I actually passed out and had no recollection of take-off.
My seat was like a large armchair and I could curl up sideways without encroaching on my neighbour (the premium cabin has a two-three-two configuration).
A photo of the vegetarian pasta meal Sadie was served in the premium cabin. She said the food in economy was better
The meal in the premium cabin also included a rice cake and tropical fruit bowl. A free pair of headphones was also served. These cost £3 to purchase in economy but are handed out for free in premium
Sadie was impressed by the extensive cocktail menu on offer in the premium cabin, with concoctions named after Norwegian’s various flight destinations
When I eventually woke up, with less than two hours to go until we landed, I found that a bright red package had been delivered to my chair.
In the dark I first thought it was a giant macaron (yum!), given its circular shape and spongy appearance, but it was actually a pair of headphones in a little case.
They cost £3 in economy.
Feeling a little chilly, I requested one of the quilted blankets and decided to dabble in the cocktail menu – when in Rome!
The cocktail menu appeared to be bigger than the movie menu, with an array of libations named after Norwegian’s different flight path destinations.
Given my recent trip, I plumped for the ‘New York Skyline’, which featured a simple mix of gin and 7up with ice and lemon.
To line my stomach, I asked the flight attendant for the meal I’d missed and she soon reappeared with my correct vegetarian order set out before me.
The premium ticket let Sadie jump the queues at JFK with a dedicated check-in desk (left), and she was also granted access to the Alitalia lounge (right). But she wasn’t too impressed by the lack of cleanliness and slightly stale sandwiches on offer
I have to say, my pre-ordered meal in economy was much better than the premium box of nibbles.
In economy I’d received a delicious aubergine dish, accompanied by broccoli and a ratatouille-like stew, with a fruit salad on the side and a small crunchy medley of radishes, tomato and lettuce.
In premium, my meal started out with a bland salad, which featured undressed cuts of lettuce and tomato.
I then unwrapped the tin foil on the hot meal box to find a tomato penne pasta coated in a sparse layer of stringy cheese, with an assortment of mushy vegetables on the side.
I was also given a pot of Dole tropical fruit, which took me back to my school days, when everyone scrambled for the cherry, and a dry rice cake.
As part of the premium food offering, I was meant to get a lighter meal too – flying in economy on the way out I’d had a pretty tasty hummus wrap, some fruit and juice before we landed – but I guess I’d been napping too long and missed this.
While tucking into my meal I decided to check out the movie selection but it was the same small library as in economy and I’d watched all of the flicks that appealed.
Norwegian Air now runs three daily flights from London Gatwick to New York’s JFK on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner with departures running at 6am, 10am and 5pm
Economy vs Premium on Norwegian Air’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner
– 282 seats
– A 30 – 31 inch seat pitch
– Complimentary in-flight entertainment on nine-inch seatback screens
– Personal snack bar for snacks and drinks purchases
– No checked bags included
– One carry-on bag included with a maximum size of 55cm x 40cm x 23cm
– One small personal item included with a maximum size of 25cm x 33cm x 20cm
– Both items must have a maximum combined weight of 10kg
– 56 seats
– Offers more than a metre of legroom (43 – 46 inch seat pitch)
– Seats recline up to ten inches
– Complimentary in-flight entertainment on 11-inch personal screens
– Three course meal service, complimentary drinks
– Lounge access
– Priority boarding
– Fast track security
– Two 20kg checked bags included, plus a carry-on bag and small personal item (same dimensions as in economy)
I thought about checking out the music on offer but I quickly discovered there was no audio available via the touchscreen, only movies, TV and games.
After having a bite of my meal, I decided to go back to sleep. I easily nodded off again in the snug armchair.
I woke up again when the plane touched down in Gatwick.
On exiting the plane, everyone in the premium cabin was given priority disembarkation.
I felt pretty good landing in London after around seven hours of sleep.
So what’s the conclusion?
Well, Norwegian’s premium cabin doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles I’ve experienced flying non-budget business and first – such as silver cutlery, flat beds and celebrity chef-endorsed menus – but it does have exceedingly comfortable armchair-style seats, ample leg room, snug blankets and the friendliest air stewards I’ve encountered in a while.
Plus, the cocktail list is mind-bogglingly extensive.
And for those reasons I’d say that if you’re travelling overnight on a long-haul flight with Norwegian, the upgrade to premium really is worth considering.
It’s more costly, yes, but by the time you’ve paid for extra baggage in economy, food and drinks at the airport and more fodder on the plane, the cost evens out a little.
Plus, your body will feel a little more evened out, too!
Norwegian Air now runs three daily flights from London Gatwick to New York’s JFK on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner with departures running at 6am, 10am and 5pm.
A return flight in economy averages around £275 while premium comes in at £845.
For those travelling in economy, lounge access at Gatwick can be booked via no1lounges.com.
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