Something’s in the Air… Norwegian Air

Air travelers, Americans especially, know the basic airlines- American Airways, United, Southwest, Jet Blue, etc. if you’re flying international you might think of AirCanada or British Airways. There’s a breakthrough coming, though, here in our U.S. skies so it’s time to learn more.

Back in December, the U.S. Department of Transportation approved Norwegian Air to expand their flight routes with connecting flights throughout the States all the way to Europe. I heard the news when my home state’s largest airport, T.F. Green in Rhode Island, announced Norwegian would be a new addition to their collection of airlines.

[Photo taken by Norwegian Air]
After December, the airline has been popping up in terminals throughout the country, including very recent set ups in Denver, Colorado and Seattle, Washington, where the airline plans to offer one-way tickets to Europe starting at $199 for standard economy seats. Talk about cheap.

Tickets for these routes posted for sale yesterday morning, and after these are launched Norwegian plans on striking up routes to Spain from four other U.S. Cities. Perhaps the budget airline is a groundbreaker in affordable international travel from America, but judging from experience, it almost seems to good to be true. If the airline turns out to be credible with goof reviews, though, it would be optimal for travelers on a budget, like college students wanting a spring break getaway.

Out of my skepticism, I took to two trusty travel sites to take get the info.

A visit to airlineratings.com proved to show mixed reviews:

The first give a full 10 stars:

“Norwegian Airlines definitely exceeded my expectation. I read some not so favorable reviews before booking and was a bit apprehensive, but my experience was delightful. The aircraft was brand new and equipped w/ a lot of modern features. My flight departed on time and arrived earlier, which was great. The flight attendants were courteous, the meals were tasty, and there was ton of overhead storage space. The inflight entertainment was great as well. Norwegian airlines was fantastic and would definitely recommend to anyone.”
-Jane, U.K.

[Photo taken by Norwegian Air]
Then the next five… not so much. These critics didn’t put the airline past 3 out of 10 with comments including:

“Almost always delayed. The crew is rude and not helpful enough with helping passengers with their luggage and seatings. Also crew completely ignored me when asking them several questions. I felt not welcome being not-scandinavian in their flights over several times. If something goes wrong while passengers are getting seated it takes a long time for the crew to organize and help the passengers.”
– Eva, Netherlands

“First transatlantic flight ever in which there is no bassinet for infants available (not even for surcharge and when calling months in advance) . They also were unwilling-again both over the phone in advance and in person at the airport- to provide us with a seat with extra legroom despite us offering to pay extra.”
-Mum, U.S.

“Bad experience. Because we purchased tickets on a site other than theirs, we were not able to get any food or water on an international flight unless we paid extra on board. A small bottle of water was $3.50 and out flighr was 12 hrs. Flight attendants wouldn’t even make eye contact with you if you were not getting a meal through them. No space at all in seat; at 5’6″ I had to turn my legs to the side to fit them. Felt claustrophobic. Movie selections were tired and old. Would not ever fly with Norwegian Air again.”
EDITORS COMMENT: Its a low cost carrier therefore everyone has to pay for food and water. Whether you do that on board or when buying your ticket is up to you.
– Jen, U.S.

Granted all of these passengers flew economy while reviewer Kristian from Thailand flew premium economy and couldn’t say enough about Norwegian. Of course, his 3-sentence, vague response was followed by a whole other slew of angry flyers. (See link for more)

After this (for lack of a better word) train wreck, I went to TripAdvisor, whose reviews I normally trust when booking hotels. These were much for mixed, with plenty more people enjoying their flights.

An anonymous traveler form Canada left a review yesterday saying:

“First experience was a good one … we were quickly serviced at the departure desk and the flight was on time. Our return flight was a 2 leg flight from Prague to Gatwick via Stockholm and it was also efficienty organized. The planes were clean and comfortable – decent legroom … YEAH !! I will definately use them again”

His praise was followed by similar reviews, but with 973 people giving excellent reviews and another 322 rating the airline as absolutely terrible, there was still a mix. (See link for more)

While Norwegian is one of the largest budget European lines, perhaps it just hasn’t been in the U.S. long enough to have a clear view of their expanded routes. While going global was a business move for Norwegian Air, and an important one at that, a mere 5 months of carrying in the U.S. isn’t enough to declare its quality. At least not for a researcher like me.

My final vote is that I need more info. While I wouldn’t shut it out completely yet (especially because I haven’t flown with them) I wouldn’t exactly recommend it with flying colors. If you’re flying international, tips for flying cheap might be a little safer way to go for now.

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