Norwegian Premium new B787-9 layout, London to New York
BACKGROUND Norwegian is now the second largest longhaul airline at Gatwick, with 13 direct long-haul destinations, including Singapore. It serves 11 routes to the US and will add a third daily frequency on this New York JFK route from October 29, 2018.
CHECK-IN I arrived at London Gatwick at 1405 for my 1705 departure on DI7015 to New York JFK Terminal 1, a flight of nearly eight hours. Norwegian aircraft depart from the South Terminal. Check-in was very slow, as the agent encountered a problem with two passengers in front of me, and so left the desks to try to sort this out, causing a 15-minute delay.
Eventually, the check-in agent reappeared and I then used the fast-track security; I had only hand luggage, but Premium passengers can book in two 20kg cases each. Once through the large duty-free shop, I went up the escalator and into the No 1 Lounge, which was included in the price of the Premium ticket.
BOARDING The flight boarded at 1630 from Gate 13. The flight attendants were dressed distinctively, the men wearing checked jackets and women wearing smart navy blue uniforms with red and white details.
As you’d expect with a Dreamliner B787-9, the windows were lovely and large. There was also lots of headroom and good-sized overhead lockers.
THESE AT The seats look the same as the ones on the B787-8 aircraft and the previously delivered B787-9 aircraft, but there are more of them in the Premium cabin and they have less legroom. The number of Premium seats has been increased from 35 to 56 (and Economy seats reduced to 282), giving a total of 338 seats. This new configuration reduces seat pitch (legroom) from 46 inches to 43 inches.
The Premium seats are larger than other airlines’ premium economy seats, but aren’t business class seats. The leg rests rise and the seat reclines old style, so that it moves into the space of the passenger behind (and the seat in front reclines into your space).
The seats are comfortable to both sit and sleep in. The IFE screens come out of the arm of the seat – which means you can’t watch it for take-off and landing, as you can in the Economy seats. The IFE uses a touchscreen, but there’s also a small controller in the side of the seat. This controller isn’t in a very good position, and is fixed; so if you have the table down, it will be obscured.
There’s in-seat AC power for devices, and also a USB port in the IFE screen. Long-haul wifi is planned for the Dreamliner fleet, perhaps as early as the end of this year.
BEST SEATS The middle seats are the ones to avoid, since they can be very difficult to get into and out of when all the seats are reclined. That said, they also have the most room under the seat in front – useful if you want to put your belongings there. The aisle seats, such as those at 1D and 1F, 2D and 2F and so on, don’t have much room, but you can just stand up to access the overhead lockers. So the best ones are probably the aisle seats, around the middle of the cabin.
THE FLIGHT We were offered apple juice, orange juice or water. Waiting at each seat is a good-quality blanket.
There was then a delay with the captain keeping us informed of the reason (three passengers with checked luggage hadn’t turned up at the gate). After 20 minutes we got away from the gate and the captain said we would make up that time; and he was right, we did.
No amenity bags are offered (because there aren’t any), but earphones were given out after take-off. I have noisecancelling headphones, and I’d recommend you take some for the flight to get the most from the IFE or your own phone or tablet. There was a small choice of fairly up-to-date Hollywood films.
The tray table comes out of the other arm of the seat to the IFE, and was good and firm.
I had no trouble using it for working on my laptop or eating.
Service is delivered from the rear of the cabin, but starts from the front, by trolley. Around 1805 the drinks service came round. The choices were: prosecco; one beer – Heineken; one white wine – a sauvignon blanc from Bordeaux; or one red – a Minervois cabernet-syrah blend.
Shortly afterwards, the meal service came round with a choice of three main courses: chicken with potato gratin, hake in a beurre blanc, or lamb rump in a rosemary jus with roast potatoes, grilled asparagus and a mint pea purée.
The flight attendant described the meal choices, and like all her on-board colleagues, she was professional and informative – especially considering she was reading from handwritten notes jotted down onto a Post-its.
The food was tasty and hot. The flight attendants then offered other drinks, including a selection of miniature Baileys, cognac or whisky with plastic cups, which were either empty or filled with ice; a nice, yet economical, touch. Tea and coffee came round as well.
After lunch I wanted to sleep for a little while, and although the lights had been dimmed, there was still a lot of light in the cabin so I asked for an eye mask and earplugs. The staff apologised, but there weren’t any. I think this is something Norwegian should reconsider, but meanwhile bring your own to avoid the glare from IFE screens overnight.
As an example of how good the service was, a flight attendant said I could use his own eyemask (that he had brought on-board from another airline). I was very grateful, and got an hour’s sleep that I needed after an early start that day. This was typical of the service. The flight attendants never stopped working, walking up and down the aisle delivering the drinks, which had been ordered through the IFE system, and also trays of water.
About 90 minutes before landing, a second, no-choice meal service took place. This included quiche with salad and some slices of salami, cheese, a chocolate bar and more drinks.
ARRIVAL We landed slightly ahead of schedule at 1950 local time but waited 30 minutes for a stand to become free. Once off the aircraft there was a short walk to immigration, and a queue of about 15 minutes.
VERDICT This was an excellent flight, after the initial pain of the check-in. If two things impressed me (and surprised me) it was how good the on-board service was, and just how inexpensive the tickets, even the Premium Flex, are when compared to the competition. There is room to work comfortably, and the possibility of getting some sleep. It is well worth the extra money over Economy.
Long-haul wifi is planned for the Dreamliner fleet, perhaps as early as the end of this year