This is a review of a Norwegian Air Shuttle flight in August 2014 from Oakland, California to Oslo, Norway, specifically the Premium Economy cabin and services. Norwegian began flying from Oakland airport in California to Oslo and Stockholm this year. Although it is a “discount” airline, Norwegian flies the latest Boeing 787 Dreamliner, unlike traditional carriers such as United, Air France, KLM and British Airways that still fly old planes between San Francisco and Europe. Norwegian does not offer business class seats; instead it offers Premium Economy seats in a separate cabin, which is at the front of the plane. It’s like business class but without the flatbed seats.
Advantages of flying Norwegian Air Shuttle from Oakland to Oslo or Stockholm
(1) Oakland Airport is smaller, less crowded and less susceptible to flight delays than SFO. There are very few international flights from Oakland and it does not get as fogged in as SFO. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, consider flying to Europe on Norwegian from Oakland Airport and not from SFO.
(2) Oslo and Stockholm are better connection airports than Paris and London. If you are going directly to Oslo or Stockholm, Norwegian is a good option. But even if you are connecting to another city, Oslo and Stockholm are better connection points than London or Paris because the latter experience a lot of flight delays. Moreover, you have to go through much longer security queues in Paris and London and you could miss your connecting flight. Better to go through Oslo and Stockholm.
Norwegian Air 787 Dreamliner premium economy class is good value for your money
The Boeing 787 is a much more comfortable airplane than the older Boeing and Airbus planes. Here’s what I like about the premium economy cabin of Norwegian Air’s 787:
- Quiet cabin: it is really much quieter than older airplanes. I noticed this particularly when I used my earplugs and I could not hear a thing! Usually my earplugs let in some “buzz” but on the 787, nothing at all.
- The air quality in the 787 cabin is so much better — it is less dry. Again I noticed this because I suffer from dry eyes and when I go on long flights, my eyes get very red and dry. On the 787, this did not happen at all. The 787 cabin is pressurized for a lower altitude, hence it is more comfortable. The better air quality and air pressure are supposed to help you overcome jet lag better.
- Much bigger windows on the 787 mean you can see more outside. The windows do not have manual window shades. You press a button and the window glass turns dark to keep out the light. A very nice touch!
- The baggage holds are huge and that means no more fighting for luggage space.
- Mood lighting adds ambiance to the cabin.
- 2-3-2 configuration in premium economy is great — consider that Air France Business Class uses a 2-3-2 configuration!
- Roomy toilets where you can stand, touch-less flush mechanism (more hygienic), sensor-activated faucets. The toilets on Norwegian Air were always clean and they worked (note: on my last 3 flights with United, one toilet was always broken and the ones that were working, were filthy).
- Food is better than most airlines’ economy class food: I had shrimp with crunchy vegetables and rice, chocolate mousse that was not too sweet, fresh rucola salad, free wines and after dinner liqueur (again, United Airlines, the worst carrier I have ever flown, charges for alcohol on international flights). Breakfast on Norwegian Air was basic, but they did have sweet grapes and a good yogurt (that probably came from Norway because it did not taste like the ghastly American yogurts). The cold hard roll did not look appetizing so I left it on the tray untouched.
- Thai flight attendants were gentle and friendly.
- The premium economy seats do not recline to flat beds, but I found it very comfortable and I was able to sleep well throughout the flight. Premium Economy is a separate cabin, in the front, with its own toilets (there is no business class on Norwegian Air). You board first and leave first. I tried several airlines’ premium economy seats in the past and Norwegian Air is the best. Air France premium economy seats are so uncomfortable that they actually gave me a terrible back ache and it’s really packed and uncomfortable. United Airlines so-called premium economy gives you only 4 more inches of legroom — it is not a separate cabin, it is quite packed, and the planes are old.
Conclusion: Norwegian Air’s Premium Economy is much closer to business class than to premium economy on other airlines. In addition, Norwegian Air flies the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner between Oakland and Oslo/Stockholm so the planes are much more comfortable and feel modern. Using Oakland Airport as a departure point and Oslo or Stockholm as connecting points reduces travel delays.