Those that like comfort but dislike planes or paying through the nose should read on.
There is a new kid on the block for flights from London to New York. This story starts on the day that Donald Trump was elected President.
Coincidentally, all carriers increased their fares to New York by around 50%. This made a trip yesterday too expensive to contemplate, which was very disappointing.
However, then I fell over Norwegian, who fly direct from Gatwick to JFK. Since their top Premium Class only costs around 30% more than economy, that sounded worth a try.
Looked at differently, you pay about a third of the price of Virgin Upper Class, i.e. for this return journey under £900 and it could have been cheaper with earlier booking.
To be honest, it is not quite up to the Upper Class standard but having an additional £1,500 to spend in New York is worth a little sacrifice.
Booking online is standard and I managed to get front row seats both ways, which is a nice bonus for those who may be a little claustrophobic. You also get to check two big bags, if desired.
There was no online check-in but machines did the business at the airport. The lounge was basic but there was a lounge with food, booze, Wi-Fi and reasonably comfortable seating.
On the plane, the seat pitch is 46”; that is 8” more than Virgin Premium Economy, which offers none of the frills. The seat itself reclines quite a way and is comfortable but doesn’t get close to flat.
The members of staff are friendly and keep the drinks coming. If my experience is typical, eat well in the lounge as the vegetarian meals, which may also double as vegan, were quite bland and not massive.
The plane itself was an almost brand new 787 Dreamliner. This is surprisingly quiet and feels very comfortable. It is also apparently good for the environment.
The inflight entertainment is generated on personal Android screens and includes the usual. There were probably a couple of dozen movies, which seems reasonable and a 3D flight map option to amuse. You could also charge or use kit via normal power or USB.
At JFK, we got in early and managed to save around 45 minutes. It may just have been luck but the arrivals hall was empty so you could get through immigration in five minutes, which beats my record of 2½ hours by (well) 2½ hours.
All in all, I would definitely repeat the experience, which suggests that other carriers may need to up their games (or lower their prices) which can only be good news.
P.S.* As part of the sales pitch, Norwegian makes a big play regarding their planes’ ability to ease jetlag. This is a two-prong approach, using lower air pressure and lighting in original ways. After a few days in New York, I have adjusted better than ever before, which suggests that the mystery formula really works.
*Added 9 Jan 2017*